Sports teach you a lot about life. You learn to turn defeat into victory, selfishness into fellowship, and along the way, find yourself building moral excellence. In doing this, it allows people to relish in the fact that there is more to life than just a specific sport.
Players will always reminisce on the fond memories of the game they played or the lessons taught by their coach. For some, the instructions given by their coach is about their pitch or their swing.
However, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajun baseball team and many others were impacted more by the benevolent teachings of one unforgettable man.
On Wednesday morning, Louisiana Baseball Head Coach Tony Robichaux passed away at the age of 57 with his loved ones and family by his side at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
Most coaches focus on wins and losses, their team rankings, and recruiting the best. However, for Coach Robichaux, it was more than that.
He believed that the game wasn’t meant to be the only identity for him or his players. It was just a tiny piece to the puzzle he was trying to put together, which was ultimately teaching faith and admirable character to anyone he encountered.
A Crowley native, Robichaux was a married man and father of three. His sons, Justin and Austin, both played for Louisiana during his 25 seasons as Head Coach of the Ragin' Cajuns.
Robichaux obtained his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from McNeese State University in 1986. After graduating college, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach to the Cowboys.
Robichaux became the Head Coach in 1987, where he led the Cowboys to a combined 263-177 record, including a school-record 41 wins in his last season there. Also, he led the program to its first-ever national ranking during the 1994 season.
After his time with the Cowboys, he began a new role as the Ragin' Cajuns Baseball Head Coach. Robichaux became the all-time winningest coach in Ragin' Cajun history with 774 victories.
With Robichaux, Louisiana hosted the school's first-ever NCAA baseball regional in 2000, and the Sun Belt’s first-ever Super Regional in 2014. The Cajuns also hosted an NCAA baseball regional in 2014 and 2016, which included the school’s first-ever No.1 ranking in 2014.
Coach Robichaux accumulated many awards such as Sunbelt Coach of the Year, LSWA All-Louisiana Coach of the Year, and an inductee of the McNeese State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Nevertheless, in the eyes of Coach Robichaux the awards, the records, and the victories don’t add up to his responsibility of being a faith-oriented man that wanted to inspire others.
“Nowhere in the Bible does it say how to be a great baseball player,“ Robichaux said. “But it’s pretty clear what kind of man you should become. When I die, I don’t want to be known as a baseball coach. I want to be known as someone who benefited the lives he encountered outside of the field.”
A mission he accomplished, as the outpour of condolences and sentimental memories from former players, friends, and family all describe him as a man who achieved the standard of life he strived to live.
Gov. John Bel Edwards commented on Robichaux, “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.”
Coach Robichaux made it his duty to produce quality players from the Ragin' Cajun Program. He not only wanted his players to be tough, but he wanted them to grasp that there is more to life than just baseball.
“I tell players that life is like a table with four legs: athletics, academics, spiritual & social. If we just let them play baseball, then we have a one-legged table, one that can’t handle burdens. We don’t send out one-legged tables from our program,” Robichaux said.
Coach Robichaux practiced his teachings by applying it. Instead of asking former players only about their batting averages and ERA’s, he would concentrate on asking them about their life and their families.
Former Louisiana player and St. Louis Cardinals rookie, Todd Lott, left his respects by saying, “Outside of my parents, this man was one of the fewest that believed in me. He knew my goal from when I first stepped foot on campus and never let my work be any less of that goal. Thank you for being there for the last three years of my life and helped me mature into the man I am today — # 4Robe.”
University of Texas Baseball Head Coach, David Pierce, spoke on the memory of his friend. “Our Thoughts and Prayers are with the Robichaux family & Ragin' Cajuns baseball on what is a tough day for so many. Tony meant so much to Lafayette, to his players and coaches, and the entire baseball world. He was a man of faith and truly guided his players to be better men. R.I.P., my friend.”
Leadership for Robichaux wasn’t centered on personal progression but focused on the breakthrough of others on their journey.
Louisiana alum, Scott Carboni can attest to Robichaux’s teachings, “He’s taught me so much about life, in general—just more about life than anything. I remember him reminding us to get on the bus on Sunday morning to take a road trip to go to church. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am, or where I am without him. He was like a father figure.”
Coach Robichaux not only touched the hearts of former players but of everyone who worked with his significant spirit. Louisiana Equipment Manager Jacob Raggio made it clear that Coach Robichaux changed his life. Robichaux guided him into establishing a work ethic even though he wasn't a collegiate athlete.
“He cared about how I did my job. Not just because I worked for him, but because how I worked as their manager was a reflection of how I’d perform in other jobs,” Raggio said. “He treated me with respect and was always willing to help me with anything when I needed him.”
Robichaux’s legacy will live forever not only in Louisiana but everywhere. His teachings of faith, hard work, and character will travel with every person that was blessed with his presence.
“I don’t care if you’re down to your last dollar. God’s not finished using you yet. I don't care if you’re down to your last eye, your last arm, the last leg, God’s not finished using you yet,” Robichaux said.
“So we try to get an understanding that you will be a part of the story. The only way they are going to write a story about you is that you’re going to have some pain, heartache, and tragedy at first. Now, what are you going to do with it?"
Robichaux was indeed a glorified soul. Many will miss him, but he will be in the hearts of everyone. The Cajun Family, as well as others, will uphold his legacy for years to come. If you ever need a reminder, visit M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park to read the sign saying: “Thanks Coach Robe. R.I.P. 36!”
Funeral services for Coach Robichaux will include a memorial service from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Cajundome Convention Center with a Rosary being said at 7 p.m. On Monday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a visitation at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. Funeral service will begin at 2 p.m.
What follows are quotes from those who worked closely with Robichaux.
Jacob Raggio is a UL Lafayette alumni who worked as an equipment manager under Robichaux:
“He means so much to me because of how he treated me and the players. When it came to us, he wanted us ready for the world after college. While I worked for him as the equipment manager for the team, he cared about how I did my job, not just because I worked for him, but because how I worked as their manager was a reflection of how I’d perform in other jobs.
“He always told me, ‘You can’t perform at this job poorly and expect me to give you a good review whenever someone calls me about you applying for a job with them.’ He always treated me with respect and was always willing to help me with anything when I needed him. I met him through bat-boying baseball games when I was young.”
Scott is a UL Lafayette alumni and one of the men whose life was touched by Coach Robicheaux.
“I talk about him almost everyday. He’s taught me so much about life, just more about life than anything. Faith; I remember him reminding us to get on the bus on Sunday morning to take a road trip to go to church. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am, or where I am, without him. He was like a father figure. Coach Robe, he treated all of us as if we were his own. He was someone you can always turn to in a time of need.
“For him, it was never about baseball, it was about teaching life’s lessons through baseball, making men that can contribute to society in a positive way, and for that I am a better man today. While I, like so many, will miss him dearly, I know his faith and I know he is in a better place and there is comfort in that. The last thing I want to say is something Coach Robe would tell me when I came to him with difficult times, ‘Play it down and pray it up.’”