Former USL great ready to pass Hawkins torch for HR record
Joshua Parrott � firstname.lastname@example.org � April 1, 2009
As UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux thought about it, there was one main similarity he could think of that linked current first baseman Scott Hawkins and former Cajun Ron Robicheaux.
"If there's one similarity I would have to draw on, it would be that they were both big, physical hitters," Robichaux said. "They both had some serious juice in their bat."
Both players are now linked for another reason.
After hitting two home runs last weekend against Florida International, Hawkins enters tonight's 6:30 non-conference home game against Northwestern State (12-11) with 38 career homers. The senior from Collierville, Tenn., needs two more bombs to break the school's career record of 39 set by Robicheaux from 1983-86.
"From my standpoint, I'm proud to have held onto that record for this long," said Robicheaux, who has worked for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office for the past 21 years. "I know records are made to be broken, but I'd be happy for Scott if he broke the record."
Both players went through adversity before finding success at UL (11-12-1).
Doctors told Robicheaux when he was in high school that he would never play baseball again due to Panner's Disease, a rare ailment that causes frequent pain in the elbow joints. After three surgeries, Robicheaux later returned to the field for Lafayette High. He was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the ninth round of the 1986 draft, but he instead decided to enroll at UL, where he was later joined by younger brother Randy.
"I turned down a good chunk of money at the time, but I thought it was the right decision," Robicheaux said. "That's the choice I made. I have no regrets, but I sometimes wonder what might have happened."
Carrying 235 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, Robicheaux was an imposing presence at the plate for the Cajuns. He played in the outfield for his first three years before moving to first base as a senior, finishing as the program's career leader in homers (39), RBIs (174) and total bases (399). While he's still first in career homers, he's now tied for second in total bases and is third in RBIs.
Several nagging injuries, including an inability to see well at night, forced Robicheaux to give up the game he loved. Now he follows the playing career of his sons Hunter and Quinn at Lafayette High.
"My body just fell apart," Robicheaux said. "I couldn't really see at night and had so many different injuries. That's just the facts. For whatever reason, it (a pro career) just wasn't meant to be."
Although Robicheaux played for UL more than 20 years ago, his legend still lingers at his alma mater.
"(Coach) Robe talks about Ron all the time," Hawkins said. "He was a great hitter. Right now, I'm more focused on us winning on the weekends, but it would be a great honor to break that record.
"I'm sure there were a couple other guys that would have broken it before me if they wouldn't have been drafted, but I've been fortunate enough to be here for four years."
Hawkins has faced some different challenges, both on and off the field.
He was a high school All-American but suffered a serious shoulder and biceps injury that required surgery. After a quiet freshman year, he hit .344 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs as a sophomore to earn second team All-NCBWA All-America honors.
Last year, Hawkins led the team in nearly every offensive category with a .306 batting average, 11 homers and 40 RBIs. Too often, though, he tried to pull the ball instead of trying to hit to the opposite field.
That was one thing Hawkins worked on a lot in the offseason with assistant coaches Anthony Babineaux and Mike Trahan. So far, it's appeared to have paid off as Hawkins is hitting .294 with six homers and 19 RBIs so far this season.
In Sunday's 11-4 win over FIU, Hawkins hit two homers - and nearly had a third if not for an impressive play made by the left fielder in the eighth inning - after making a slight adjustment at the plate. He kept his front foot flat as the pitcher threw home instead of doing his usual toe tap, which helped him maintain better focus on the ball.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment Hawkins has made since coming to UL has been away from baseball. Hawkins missed Fan Day in 2008 to marry his college sweetheart, the former Caroline Strother, in a private ceremony in Sandestin, Fla. They're now raising their two young children, daughter Gabriella and son Cooper, while Scott balances being a college baseball player and a student-athlete.
Robicheaux said he always dreamed that one of his sons would grow up and break his home run record.
"It would have been nice if one of them had done it," he said. "But I'm glad another Cajun is going to carry on the torch."
Hawkins is currently focused on winning games, but he would like it if his family could see him set the record.
"That would be neat," Hawkins said. "I'd like to do it at home. It would definitely be special."