NATCHITOCHES — Ask LSU fans who Ronnie Rantz is, and you are likely to get one of two answers.
Most would say he’s a broadcaster for LSU and other baseball games. The rest would recall Rantz was a left-handed pitcher for the Tigers. He was part of 1991 and 1993 Tiger teams that won national titles before arm issues ended his career.
Make no mistake about it, Rantz is still out there pitching. Only now his pitches are ambitious ones for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Rantz took over as CEO and president of the Hall of Fame Foundation in September.
Some of the changes Rantz has implemented will be obvious during this weekend’s 2017 LSHOF induction. For example, a Friday event billed as a tailgating experience has morphed into a festival atmosphere with a live band playing in the heart of the city’s historic downtown area. There will be a red carpet for the inductees and Hall of Fame members on Saturday
Getting inductees into Natchitoches for a weekend and pulling off a ceremony attended by approximately 600 people is no easy feat. Making the Hall of Fame a relevant entity outside the walls of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum is the huge challenge Rantz is meeting head on.
“One of the issues we have is basic geography,” Rantz said. “Natchitoches is a wonderful city that so many people love. I’m one of them. But it is located in a corner of the state and most people who live along the I-10 corridor don’t realize the Hall of Fame is in Natchitoches, even though it’s been open since 2013.
“We were able to host a series of events in different cities, bringing in Hall of Fame members, the inductees and other well-known athletes and others. That was a good start. In order to get people into the museum, you need to give them a reason to come. That reason is the rich sports history Louisiana has.”
With that, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Glory Road Tour was born, featuring stops in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma and Baton Rouge in the months leading up to the 2017 induction.
Inductee and PGA champion David Toms was a key component in another similar stop dubbed, “An Evening with David Toms.”
At each stop, Hall of Fame members, inductees and other prominent athletes were invited to participate in the festivities that served the dual role of fundraising and community awareness.
Rantz is preparing to ramp up the schedule for an outside event in 2017-18 with an eye on reaching for other distant goals, such as adding interactive exhibits that will bring the museum experience to life. That strategy may seem odd in a Louisiana climate that includes not only heat and humidity, but also the threat of budget cuts to the Louisiana Museum System almost yearly.
“There are things we can’t control, like the state budget that will exist every year,” Rantz said. “We have to continue trying to grow the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame anyway we can. We control that."