LAFAYETTE — When Louisiana-Lafayette hitting coach Matt Deggs accepted the offer to become Sam Houston State’s head baseball coach this offseason, Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux had a bit of a vexing situation on his hands.
Not only did he want to replace Deggs with a qualified and capable coach, he also wanted to find someone who believed in the same philosophy the Cajuns had used so effectively in recent years.
“We felt we didn’t want another hitting coach to come in here and have a different philosophy, because now we’d have to de-train and re-train,” Robichaux said. “We don’t have that kind of time; we’re not a veteran team.”
Lucky for Robichaux, the ideal candidate was waiting for an opportunity just like this one.
Jeremy Talbot not only honed his coaching skills and his philosophy toward hitting while working on the same staff as Deggs at Texas A&M, he also was ready to get back into coaching.
Talbot left A&M in 2009 for personal reasons, and he hadn’t been back on a college coaching staff since.
But it wasn’t as if he didn’t have any offers to get back into college baseball. Talbot put his career on hold to make sure he could be present in his children’s lives.
“I think it’s more important to be a man and a father than it is to be the world’s greatest coach,” Talbot said. “I really needed a situation that was near here, whether that’d be LSU, Tulane, UL — something close to the Thibodaux area. The good Lord will make a way, and he did.”
With the Cajuns, Talbot has found an opportunity to be both a father and a coach again.
“The transition was good on both ends,” he said. “From my end, on a family standpoint where I get to be close to my kids and still do my career, and from a baseball end, Coach Deggs and I worked hand-in-hand at A&M for four seasons. We really evolved together as a coaching staff and from an offensive philosophy. We complemented one another.
“Coach Deggs came in and brought all that here, and it culminated with the perfect storm with the personnel being where it needed to be along with the culture that he brought with him.”
Talbot is hoping to pick up right where Deggs left off, but he knows he’s facing his own challenges in the process.
The Cajuns lost a highly productive group of offensive players from last year’s 58-10 team to graduation and professional baseball — which Talbot said is a good problem to have.
Talbot preaches to his players to “control what you can control.” By that, he means he wants his players to bring the same effort and intensity, regardless of whatever might be going on.
“Great teams and great players can come out, maybe when things aren’t going so well, and they can put that aside,” Talbot said. “You can always control your effort, your attitude and your intensity. That’s one thing we want to be known for, and that’s something this program has been known for. We want to play free and without fear.”
According to his new pupils, he practices what he preaches.
Both senior infielder Tyler Girouard and junior shortstop Blake Trahan said Talbot is remarkably similar to Deggs from a teaching standpoint, and they each used the same word to describe Talbot as a coach.
“His passion for the game and for the swing and the smaller details of the game is incredible,” Trahan said.
“He’s really passionate about the game, and he’s really passionate about hitting,” Girouard said.
While he’s bringing the same approach that Deggs used with so much success, Talbot is quick to point out that not every team is built the same way.
“I don’t think you can coach every team the same,” Talbot said. “Some teams are going to bring a lot of strength and hit 70-plus home runs; some teams are going to fly, and you can steal a bunch of bases with those.
“This team can hit the ball out of the park occasionally, but I don’t think that’s what we need to be known for.”