LAFAYETTE — In the fall, it’s not uncommon for Reinhardt Drive to be lined with tailgaters 12 hours before a Ragin’ Cajuns football game.
But it’s not something that’s normally seen in June — at least not until this year as eager fans dragged out their barbecue grills and coolers and got crawfish boils going as they waited for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball team to take the field Saturday against Ole Miss in the NCAA super regional competition.
Only in Lafayette, said Natalie Miguez.
“My husband is a college umpire, and we travel all around the country watching college baseball games,” Miguez said. “Tailgating is a unique thing to Lafayette. You see this for football, but you don’t see this for baseball. All of Lafayette is behind this team.”
Miguez said she and her family headed out to their tailgating spot at 6:30 a.m Saturday. She said she has been to every Ragin’ Cajuns home game this season at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
“We set up last night, came back and we aren’t leaving until tomorrow night,” Miguez said. “It is a football atmosphere. The team feels the support. They rolled through here and saw people tailgate and they know they have the full support of the community.”
John Guillory said he has always been a UL-Lafayette baseball fan, but he said he has never been to more games than this season.
“This is something new,” Guillory said. “I am amazed at how many people are out here for baseball. It’s not just the boys playing baseball, but the girls playing softball and the football team and the basketball team. I am absolutely ecstatic to be a Ragin’ Cajuns fan.”
In last week’s regional round, weather played a factor in the tailgating atmosphere as 10 inches of rain hampered fans’ set up. Clear skies Saturday brought no shortage of crawfish boils, barbecue grills and beer pong.
“This is more participation than I have ever seen for baseball,” Guillory said. “I wish it was like this all year long. I think everyone is just excited to be here.”
Miguez said she has followed the Cajuns baseball team for years and this is the pinnacle. She said the team definitely feels the support from the tailgaters and the fans inside the Tigue.
“I’ve watched some of these kids for the last four years,” Miguez said. “To see how much some of these kids have grown is amazing. The team sees it. They feel it. They hear it while they’re warming up and in pregame meetings. They need this support behind them, and this crowd will follow them to Omaha.”
Hank Anderson, the father of Ragin’ Cajuns relief pitcher Martin Anderson, said the team feeds off the crowd.
“When we are home, there is such a big advantage,” Anderson said. “It is a great baseball atmosphere.”
The Andersons are from Ruston, but Hank Anderson said he can’t see his son returning.
“My son kind of got a culture shock right out the gate,” Anderson said. “I don’t expect him to ever go back to north Louisiana. There is nothing like Lafayette and nothing like how this crowd supports baseball. Any kid who wants to play baseball some place special, this is it.”
Guillory said this is the greatest stretch of success the Ragin’ Cajuns have ever experienced and called the super regional the “icing on the cake.”
“For many years, UL has always been a little speck on the map,” Guillory said. “This right here is a big ole target. It is going to bring people from all over the nation to see that we are an athletic power. It’s going to blow up like a big Ragin’ Cajun bomb.”