LAKE CHARLES — While sitting inside Joe Miller Ballpark watching the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and McNeese Cowboys battle it out on the diamond, a thought sprung to mind.
Instead of playing a few midweek games each season, what if the two baseball programs coached by the late and legendary Tony Robichaux came together to put on a weekend event?
It could be called “The Robe Classic.”
I will admit that it is not necessarily the most original name but it is straight to the point which isn’t a bad way to honor the man who was a straight shooter himself.
There is no denying the impact the late Tony Robichaux had on the two programs — the only two squads that he played and coached for — in his Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame career.
It all began in Lake Charles — first as a Cowboy player and then as interim head coach and then head coach. Robichaux guided McNeese to multiple 35-win seasons, its first 40-win season, conference titles and two trips to the NCAA Regionals.
Robe then took that success and went even further in 25 seasons in Lafayette — the place his playing career began — reaching 12 NCAA Regionals, 4 NCAA Super Regionals and the 2000 College World Series.
At the time of his death in 2019, the Crowley native was the winningest coach in both programs’ history.
So, how amazing would it be to see the two teams face off twice in the same weekend — one day in Lake Charles and the other in Lafayette?
Yes, the two programs play each other every season already, but turning that old Interstate 10 rivalry into a weekend celebration would rightfully honor the man who led both programs to unprecedented success.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Matt Deggs wouldn’t bat an eye at honoring the man who not only saved his career but in some ways saved his life. Cowboys coach Justin Hill may not have ever coached under Robe, but he did consider him a coaching mentor and friend.
And yes, Robe is already honored in special ways by both programs. There is the statue of Robe that stands outside the entrance to Russo Park, and there is the bullpen at Joe Miller Ballpark which is named after Robe.
Having an annual event that features both programs, and played in each team’s home ballpark is something different — an annual reminder of the impact the man beloved by so many made in thousands of lives.
McNeese and Louisiana could even start the season with “The Robe Classic.” The Saturday contest could be played at Joe Miller Ballpark and then on Sunday the action shifts to M.L. Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park.
It would be a format nearly identical to the LSU and Louisiana softball programs with the LSU Crossover. So it can obviously be done and each program should jump at the chance. They both still get to play a quality program, keep a fan favorite rivalry, pack the stands, and of course, honor Robe.
To make the event even more about Robe, the other teams involved in the weekend event could be programs coached by Robe proteges like John Szefc at Virginia Tech and Jason Gonzales at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Robe’s number 36 would be painted on the fields of each for the game — maybe even a nicely designed “Robe Classic” logo.
In between innings, the scoreboards could play videos of the famed coach and even have everyone’s favorite Robeisms pop up, too, including my personal favorite “Are you going to sit down when it’s time to stand up?.”
The event also could serve as a phenomenal opportunity to raise funds for local charities in both the Lafayette and Lake Charles areas.
With the fifth year anniversary of his passing coming up in 2024, there would be no better way to honor the man and his legacy than to have the opening weekend of the 2024 season start with the inaugural “Robe Classic.”
The two athletic departments led by Heath Schroyer and Dr. Bryan Maggard could easily start laying the groundwork now for the event. There is never a bad time to get to work on honoring Robe, or as he would say, “Work while you wait.”
Raymond Partsch III is the host of “RP3 & Company” which is broadcast weekday mornings (6-9) on THE GAME 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.