LAFAYETTE — A healthy Tyler Girouard got the itch when he got a taste of the real world.
Working a couple part time jobs just didn’t have the same flavor as playing Division I college baseball. While he told University of Louisiana at Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux after last season that he was likely finished playing college baseball, Girouard decided he’d rather not spend his final year of eligibility wondering in nine-to-five increments.
“I started working a little bit part time, and it really made me miss the game,” Girouard said.
Once he determined that he was healthy enough to play, he approached Robichaux about returning to the team last fall.
“I went and met with coach Robichaux, and I think he really hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘Being away from it really makes you realize how bad you want it,’” Girouard said. “When he told me that, it really made me realize that I really did want to be back.
“It opened my eyes that it’s my last year to play baseball, and I really wanted to take advantage of that.”
With the Cajuns fielding a talented but inexperienced team heading into this season, Robichaux welcomed the fifth-year senior he calls “Shug” back with open arms.
“That’s huge,” Robichaux said of Girouard’s return. “We pick up a very good hitter, a left-handed hitter. We also pick up a guy who’s a good clubhouse leader, a guy that brings a lot of energy every day to the team, the clubhouse, the field and the dugout. That’s enormous for us.”
Girouard told Robichaux after the Cajuns were knocked out in the super regionals last year that he would forego his final year of eligibility and move on after earning his degree, but Robichaux had a feeling he might be seeing Girouard in the fall.
The big impediment was Girouard’s health. He played 48 games almost exclusively as a designated hitter last season while dealing with a stress fracture and persistent pain in his knee. Girouard didn’t want to go through another season if his leg wasn’t up to the task.
But Robichaux made sure to leave the door open for the possibility of a healthy Girouard returning when the itch inevitably hit.
“He and I met in his exit meeting. And he felt that if he could go get his leg better, he would definitely consider returning,” Robichaux said.
Girouard said he’d made up his mind to return when the Cajuns were about two weeks away from completing their fall camp, but he realized that it wasn’t entirely his call.
He made sure to give Robichaux a window in case the coach wanted to move on with the younger players.
“I knew that my time was coming up,” said Girouard, who had to enroll in grad school to play this season. “I didn’t want to keep coach Robichaux and the other coaches on. I didn’t want to wait too long with them for them to make their decision.
“I didn’t want to come in and say, ‘Hey, I want to come back now, put me on the team.’ I wanted to talk to them, I wanted to make sure I was still welcome back.”
But Robichaux wasn’t about to turn away a player with a .331 batting average and 11 home runs in nearly 500 career at bats.
Girouard’s return gives the Cajuns a boost in one of the areas where they would’ve been sorely lacking. Only two other position players who played a significant role on last season’s 58-10 team returned.
With Girouard in the fold, Robichaux said they could use him at either third base — where he spent most of his time in 2013 — or at second base. Robichaux was not concerned about Girouard missing fall camp.
“(Girouard) knows how to get ready, he knows his body, he’s a veteran,” Robichaux said. “So I think he’ll be fine.