Rogers: Tony Robichaux’s Authenticity Will Be Lasting LegacyColumns
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Tony Robichaux was the genuine article.
For the last 25 seasons, Robichaux occupied the dugout for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. And during that time, what you saw is what you got. Robichaux didn’t put on a front for anyone. What you saw when the lights of a ballpark were on is what you got from Robichaux behind closed doors, too. He was the epitome of genuine.
Robichaux, 57, a man of deep faith, passed away Wednesday morning after having two surgeries following a heart attack. It’s a somber day for Acadiana, the State of Louisiana and college baseball in general. But what is a massive loss for college baseball is heaven’s gain.
I could sit here and list so many Tony Robichaux stories from over the years. Everyone, of course, knows about Robichaux and the famous quote about wanting players who are drinking from a water hose. That was the essence of Robichaux, and it’s a quote, though old, is still used by many coaches today, and equals plenty of laughs from fans and writers alike.
But my most lasting memories of ‘Coach Robe’ delve into more serious topics. The type of situations that define who you are as a coach, person, leader and, in many ways, a parent.
Back in 2014, the Cajuns had one of college baseball’s most feared teams. They were just ridiculous, and they were on a collision course with the College World Series and potentially the program’s first national title. The Cajuns rolled through the Louisiana Regional and entered the Super Regional round with more than 50 wins. Imagine that. More than 50 wins before you even play a game in a Super Regional. Amazing.
The Cajuns were impressive in the series opener against Ole Miss. They won 9-5 and put their high-octane offense on display. The same player bunted for a hit and hit a towering home run in the same game. The Cajuns needed just one more win. The next night, Ole Miss responded with a 5-2 victory to the stage for a huge series finale.
A trip to Omaha just wasn’t in the cards for Robichaux and the Cajuns. The Rebels powered their way to a 10-4 victory in the finale. The program that couldn’t get any luck to propel it to Omaha had finally found some — against the most unlikely opponent, Robichaux’s Cajuns.
After the game, Robichaux spoke to his players for a while in the outfield. The stadium that was raucous throughout the weekend was suddenly silent. Everyone was stunned.
Robichaux packed his things up, made the short walk to the postgame press conference in the athletic building, and proceeded to not delve on the loss, but instead showcase the strides his program had made on and off the field.
He talked about the academic strides so many of his players had made throughout the year. He talked about the guys on the team that had become better people during his time in Lafayette. He admitted at the time he had plenty of players that people in their hometowns had completely given up on as people. But they prospered in Lafayette. And he talked about how much he was looking forward to seeing how his players would fare as parents and fathers. He was confident they wouldn’t let themselves down.
Those words during such a crushing moment in a coach’s career have always resonated with me. And they weren’t just fluff. You could tell they were genuine. After all, it was Tony Robichaux saying it.
The other Robichaux story I’ll remember for as long as I cover this sport involves his hitting coach that year, Matt Deggs.
Deggs was done. Texas A&M had fired him, a decision that Deggs admitted had to be made at the time by his close friend, A&M coach Rob Childress. He was out of coaching, selling fertilizer and his life was far from normal. It was an absolute mess. But Deggs eventually wanted to try his hand again in coaching, so he reached out to Robichaux about an opening.
The two coaches met in Central Texas and Robichaux hired him. Robichaux knew Deggs was damaged goods. He knew the hire was risky for his reputation. But he also knew he was a damn good coach. So, as a man of faith and a firm believer in second chances, the long-time Cajuns skipper gave Matt Deggs a job.
Deggs didn’t let him down.
Deggs helped engineer one of the most successful runs in Cajuns history, while also re-earning a reputation as an offensive guru. The hard-nosed hitting coach cleaned up his life off the field, too, and has since parlayed that run into the head coaching job at Sam Houston State, while also staying sober and becoming a speaker reliving his testimony.
Deggs credits Robichaux for saving his life.
“Coach Robe was a servant, a Servant Leader of men. He served his family & coaches; he served his players & his program. He served his university and all of Acadiana,” Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs said. “The man personally saved my life & my family- I will never be the same because of him. My heart is broken for Colleen, Ashley, Justin, & Austin.
God brought home a great one today.”
As incredible of a man Robichaux was off the field, he had plenty of success while on it, too. The long-time Cajuns skipper guided the program to 12 NCAA tournament appearances in his 25 seasons with the program, reaching the high-water mark in 2000 with a trip to the College World Series. Before his time at UL, Robichaux spent eight seasons at McNeese State and guided the Cowboys to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.
He finishes his illustrious coaching career with more than 1,100 wins and over 900 with the Cajuns.
For as much success as he had as a coach, it’s not what he did on the field that people such as me will remember him by. It’s by the stories of faith, life lessons and believing in people when simply no one else believed in them … even themselves.
In a day and age where everything seems so superficial at times, Tony Robichaux was a throwback. He didn’t put on a show for everyone. He just told it like it is.
He was the genuine article and will be dearly missed. But his contributions and life lessons won’t ever be forgotten.
Rest easy, Robe.
National Reaction To Robichaux’s Passing
Coach Robichaux represented the best of Louisiana. For more than three decades, he was a great mentor who cared for his players on and off the field at both McNeese State and UL Lafayette. We lost an ambassador for our state today and we will miss him dearly. #lagov #lalege https://t.co/leu1VeOleR
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) July 3, 2019
I am so sad to hear about the passing of Tony Robichaux. He was a great coach and a better man. Proud to have been able to call him a colleague and a friend. Thoughts and prayers to his family and to the Ragin’ Cajuns. #RIPCoach
— Scott Stricklin (@CoachStrick10) July 3, 2019
RIP. From everything I’ve heard he seemed like and amazing man and coach. Prayers with Austin and his family.
— Alex Bregman (@ABREG_1) July 3, 2019
— Jim Schlossnagle (@TCUSchloss) July 3, 2019
— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) July 3, 2019
— Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns® (@RaginCajuns) July 3, 2019
We're saddened to hear of the passing of Tony Robichaux.
— Auburn Baseball (@AuburnBaseball) July 3, 2019
Tony Robichaux was a tremendous ambassador for the game of baseball and the Sun Belt Conference.
— Troy Baseball ⚔️ (@TroyTrojansBSB) July 3, 2019
Today we lost a great man, husband, father, leader and mentor.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Robichaux family and the entire UL community. https://t.co/vK9xjgpcjK
— Mississippi State Baseball ⚾️ (@HailStateBB) July 3, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Coach Robichaux and the entire Louisiana community. A huge loss for college baseball who won't soon be forgotten. https://t.co/QkLYtkyHzu
— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) July 3, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Louisiana baseball coach Tony Robichaux today. We always enjoyed competing against his teams and he certainly will be missed here at @SouthernMissBSB. pic.twitter.com/dLzT40Ju94
— Southern Miss Baseball (@SouthernMissBSB) July 3, 2019
I’m at a loss words about my former head coach and mentor @RaginCajunsBSB head coach Tony Robichaux passing away this morning. Been a tough few days. Please pray for he and his family.
— Jonathan Lucroy (@JLucroy20) July 3, 2019
Just a sad day. College Baseball loses a great coach and tremendous man. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Robichaux Family. https://t.co/lVsSngiwLB
— Coach Mike Bianco (@CoachMikeBianco) July 3, 2019
He was always busy for the Master. Rest easy coach. We will take it from here. Love ya… ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/hF3zfCp18M
— Justin Hill (@JustinHill) July 3, 2019
The Sun Belt Conference mourns the loss of @RaginCajunsBSB head coach Tony Robichaux.
Robichaux leaves a legacy, on and off the baseball field, that will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/WzJ2vJTfTt
— Sun Belt (@SunBelt) July 3, 2019
Leader of men-
tough faithful and gritty
He lived a life of Passion & love
Full of knowledge understanding & Wisdom
He always ate last and it was never about him
He spoke what he believed & lived by his convictions
Thank you Coach Robe for the gift of your example
I love you. pic.twitter.com/Out2mFJKwx
— Coach Matt Deggs (@CoachDeggs28) July 4, 2019