Like many Fall 2020 University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduates, Austin Robichaux will earn his degree during commencement ceremonies at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
The venue holds special significance for Robichaux, who’s celebrating the completion of a longtime goal: graduate from UL Lafayette. He will receive his diploma on the same field where he pitched for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns from 2012-2014 under his father, the late Tony “Coach Robe” Robichaux. The elder Robichaux was head coach for 25 years until his death last year.
Lifelong Ragin’ Cajun
Austin grew up as a Ragin’ Cajun, and not even an offer to join the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 2011 was enough to sway him from playing for his father’s team.
“I got to do what I love and play the sport that I love at such a competitive level, while also being with my dad every single day," he says. “I would relive that over and over.”
The pinnacle of that experience for Austin was when the Cajuns hosted the 2014 Super Regional. It was the team’s first Super Regional since 2000.
During that tournament, Austin got news he’d been drafted to the Los Angeles Angels. Within three days, he was flying out to play for the team’s minor division in Utah, cutting his academic career short with nearly 30 credit hours left to his bachelor’s degree.
“At first it was kind of a culture shock,” he says. “After that first year under my belt, I became more comfortable, and it was basically — essentially — a dream come true. I was waking up every day, playing the sport I love as a job.”
Life After Baseball
Coach Robe was known for holding his players to a high standard both on and off the field. Players — including sons Justin and Austin — were required to sign a code of conduct known as “Robe’s Rules.”
In a 2009 interview for La Louisiane, the head coach said, “Baseball will come to an end. For some, that happens after college. For others, it’s after a career in baseball — but it will end. It’s my job to prepare them for life after baseball.”
Austin says part of that preparation was an emphasis on earning a degree.
“One day, it comes to an end and when that day comes, we need to be set up,” he says. “It was something [my dad] preached, and it was a goal that I set.”
When the University began offering the online Bachelor of General Studies in 2017, Austin enrolled to finish what he’d started six years earlier. The following year, he played his last season of pro ball and returned to Acadiana.
He began working with athletic training facility Ragin’ Cages, giving lessons. That eventually turned into a full-time role as head of baseball operations, focusing on training pitchers.
Balancing his online coursework with his full-time job was a challenge but found it was something he’d trained for.
“It was definitely tough, but if there's one thing that going to school and playing a Division I sport and going to school and playing a professional sport does is, it teaches you time management, and a big thing my dad taught me, as well, was time management," Austin says.
Austin says he’d plot out what needed to be done when to tackle in 45-minute to hour-long blocks as he had them.
“That’s what ultimately saved me,” he says.
Back to the Ball Field
Austin says it was never a matter of if he would earn his degree but when. Now that the date is assured, Austin is both proud and relieved.
“I couldn't be more excited because of how much [my dad] preached I need to get my degree, and how proud I know he is,” Austin says.
Commencement comes with its own set of emotions. Had he continued at UL Lafayette through his senior year, his father would have been on stage to confer his degree. Instead, his mother Colleen will be part of the ceremony.
“There are going to be a lot of emotions, but I know he's going to be watching from above, so at the end of the day, it's just going to be all happy tears,” Austin says.
With this chapter closed, Austin is looking ahead to carrying on his father’s legacy on the field and off, as he continues training future players and he and his wife Sara prepare to welcome their first child.
“My dad taught me not only the game itself but the game after baseball, which is life. Ultimately, my dad's biggest thing until the day passed away was: life isn’t just baseball, because baseball comes to an end. It's what kind of husband, what kind of brother, what kind of son — and that's kind of what I put into my teaching. I remind them that someday you have to be the man that God intended, and it's not just about baseball,” Austin says.
“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is waiting on my son to get here and teaching him about who his grandfather was.”
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