LAFAYETTE — The newcomers to the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball program got a preview of what things could be like Sunday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Less than a week before the No. 6 Ragin’ Cajuns open the 2016 season, more than 1,500 fans turned out for the team’s annual Fan Day activities, and many waited in line for more than an hour to get autographs from the current players and recently graduated Cajuns now playing professionally.
“This is pretty neat,” said infielder Alex Pinero of Miami. “In junior college, we may have had 50 people in the stands for games.”
Having the fans on hand is one reason coach Tony Robichaux is a fan of the preview day, which this year came five days in advance of Friday’s opener against Sam Houston State.
“It’s good for our fans, and it’s good for our players,” Robichaux said. “It lets our guys get a little bit of a feel for what it’s going to be like when the lights come on Friday.”
Players signed their baseball cards for nearly two hours at the start of Sunday’s activities, which also included a home run contest, a full intrasquad game and a silent auction of Cajuns baseball jerseys and other items.
Robichaux said his opening-day lineup was not set, but the starters for Team Cajun in Sunday’s seven-inning intrasquad game didn’t include any surprises.
The Cajuns started returning All-American Stefan Trosclair at first base after he played second base last season, Brenn Conrad at second, freshman Hunter Kasuls at shortstop, Joe Robbins at third base, Kennon Fontenot in left, Kyle Clement in center, Brian Mills in right, Nick Thurman at catcher and junior-college transfer Steven Sensley at designated hitter.
Clement, last year’s team leader with a .346 batting average, showed his power stroke during the home run derby. Despite stiff winds, he hit five homers in the first round — three more than any other participant in the 12-man event.
In the final round, though, only one player managed to fight through the wind and hit a home run. That was recently graduated first baseman Greg Davis, now a student assistant coach. Davis, who hit seven homers during last year’s regular season, was one of two finalists in last year’s home run derby, when he lost to also-graduated Dylan Butler.
Officially a sellout
UL-Lafayette’s ticket office passed the 3,000-sold mark for season tickets Friday and has now hit full capacity for season tickets. The rest of the official seat number of 3,755 is saved for player and visiting team tickets and UL-Lafayette students.
Cajuns officials said the preseason sellout on a season-ticket basis is a first in UL-Lafayette athletic history.
During the regular season, fans still will be allowed to purchase an unspecified number of tickets for admission each game. Ticket staffers will assess the number of empty seats in the stadium before and early in each game.
Eight former Cajuns now playing professionally were on hand for the autograph session and took part in the intrasquad game as Team Alumni.
The group: catcher Michael Strentz, pitcher Austin Robichaux and outfielder Caleb Adams of the Los Angeles Angels organization; infielder Chase Compton and outfielder Seth Harrison of the San Francisco Giants organization; infielder Jace Conrad of the Tampa Bay Rays organization; infielder Ryan Leonards of the Chicago White Sox organization; and outfielder Dex Kjerstad of the Miami Marlins organization.