An Honor and a Privilege – From the Bird’s Nest
Last Wednesday, I received a text message giving me the news of the passing of my friend and Ragin' Cajuns Baseball Coach Tony Robichaux. I headed to the office. Despite our hoping against hope, we were aware of how grave his condition was and had prepared to give the heartbreaking news to the public.
It was less than 30 minutes later when the first call came in.
I looked at my phone and saw the call was from Baton Rouge. I knew it would be Jeff Palermo from the Louisiana Radio Network.
It was too soon. I wasn't ready. I almost didn't answer the call.
But I did. He asked if he could record something with me. I gave him an honest answer. I would try.
I was, as the cliche' states, a hot mess.
I got through it, somehow. I spoke of Tony's impact on his players as a mentor and a Man of God. I didn't say anything about 1,100-plus wins, conference titles, how many regional appearances and the like.
I had just had the opportunity to talk about a molder of men to a statewide radio audience that only knew about wins and losses. It was a chance to turn my (hot) mess into a message.
Where had I heard that before?
When I got off the phone, I understood what my purpose was going to be over the next days. There was a message to convey and I was being chosen as the messenger. There would be time later for personal grief. Servant leadership is a quality that I've never possessed. But, maybe it was time for me to grow up a little.
KATC-TV was next. Could they send a reporter and a camera crew. Wait...on camera? No. Not ready for that.
"Sure," I said.
I cracked at one point during that interview. I never saw the piece so I don't know if that part was used. But I got through that one.
Then came a call from Sean Trcalek at News 15. Sean and I have been friends for many years. Could he send a camera crew.
Sorry, buddy. I'm on the air soon and need time to compose myself.
"Absolutely," I said. Send them over.
The message was the same. Better husbands, better fathers, better men.
Scott Prather asked if I wanted him to sit in with me during Bird's Eye View. My head said no. I gotta suck it up.
"I'd like that a lot," I said.
Somehow we got through the next three hours. There was more than one occasion when that lump in my throat became a boulder. Scott covered.
There were calls from Kevin Foote with the Advocate, Tim Buckley with The Advertiser and Glenn Guilbeaux with Gannett. Those were easier. It was okay if I lost it a little.
Thursday was the Fourth of July. A holiday and I would have a day to process everything without having to be professional. But then I got a message from Andrew Clay at KATC. He wanted me to do a segment with him. Some of it would run during the news. The entire interview would be on their You Tube channel.
It was another opportunity. "I'll be there," I said. And, in a ten minute segment I had the chance to continue Tony's message. I was really grateful for that particular opportunity.
Friday was a day off. I had been wanting to have lunch with Patrick Crawford, Assistant AD for Athletic Communications and Digital Strategy. We clinked glasses many times during the afternoon. "To 36." I told him about the opportunities afforded me to talk about this incredible human being. But I was done with those duties and would have some time before Sunday's visitation.
A text came from George Faust at KLFY. They were doing a tribute show Sunday night and could I record a couple of segments with him. I asked if we could push the taping back to the evening. There wasn't water in those glasses Patrick and I had been clinking. We set up the taping for after 7:00. I went home and took a nap.
For the first time, I told a baseball story. It was Tony's decision to start freshman Andy Gros in game two of the 2000 Super Regionals. It was an example of Tony's courage as a coach.
Ian Auzenne asked if I would sit in with Craig Melancon and him during "The Au-Zone" Saturday morning. That one was easy to say yes to. And, being on the air with Craig, one of my best friends, and a guy who has done so much for the baseball program was really special.
I also got a text from Patrick asking if I would record something Sunday evening with Doug Domingue for a video he was putting together. I knew that one would be the toughest of all because I would have seen the family by then. I also knew if Doug was doing it, it would be first class. I was quick to say yes once we could get the timing figured out.
Afterward, I joined many of the former players at the Stadium Club. And, surprisingly (but not really),Tony's son Justin, stopped by for a bit. I told him about the last few days. And, I told him it was an honor and a privilege to be able to talk about his father publicly over these last days.
There was a message. I did my best to convey it.
It truly was an honor and a privilege. I feel so blessed.