So many things have taken place in Yvette Girouard’s life that she never dreamed could happen.
On Friday night at Lamson Park, that list grew by one.
From now on, the University of Louisiana's nationally ranked softball team will play its home games on Yvette Girouard Field.
“The absolute ultimate. I never dreamed this would happen,” said Girouard, who was the softball program's first coach.
Yvette Girouard and Skip Bertman speculated that some coaches stayed away from the Louisiana Legends Q&A for a very basic reason: Neither …
The announcement came right after Girouard threw out the first pitch for the Cajuns’ Sun Belt home opener against Troy.
And in true UL softball fashion, Girouard was so surprised that she still didn’t believe it, even after longtime public address announcer Robert Harris made the proclamation.
“I thought Robert was pulling his usual shenanigans,” Girouard said. “Because I turned around and said, ‘Robert, really?’ Because he’s been known to pull off a few things.
“He auctioned my momma’s Cadillac off a million times.”
Then it finally hit her that Harris wasn’t joking — for a change. All of the alumni and friends of the program weren’t only there Friday to celebrate alumni weekend at Lamson Park.
“When I saw the players that came back, I was in shock,” Girouard said. “I certainly never put two and two together, because I never dreamed this would ever happen. I mean, who dreams that a field might be named after them?
“I just can’t believe everybody kept it a surprise.”
It was the latest in a long line of truly unbelievable developments in Girouard’s life.
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In the 1970s, she took classes at Earl K. Long Gym on the UL campus. A decade later, she had an office there and was the first-ever head softball coach at her alma mater.
In the fall of 1980, Girouard tells the story of former UL president Ray Authement offering her that job despite having no park, no uniforms, no budgets and no scholarships … but still with an expectation of winning.
Ten years later, Girouard led the then-Lady Cajuns into an NCAA Regional field for the first time.
By 1993, Girouard and the program she built from scratch was in the Women’s College World Series, finishing third in the country.
Girouard went on to coach at LSU from 2001 to 2011.
Then in 2013, after 13 years of being considered "the enemy" of many in the program she constructed from the ground up, Girouard was welcomed back to Lamson Park, throwing out the first pitch of a game between the Cajuns and Houston, coached by one of her former players Kyla Hall, on April 18, 2013.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Girouard said. “I’m in such shock. For so long, it wasn’t a good story for me. It was hard. It was awful. My players were hurting too. I keep saying this regime has allowed me to come back home and my players to come back home.”
This time, her name will be permanently displayed on that field forever.
“Thank God I didn’t burn any bridges,” Girouard thought out loud. “God is good, God is good.”
No, it wasn’t the exact field she coached on in the program’s early days.
In that first year, the team that has now qualified for six Women’s College World Series and only missed the NCAA Regional play once since 1990 played at five different city parks. “I never knew where we were playing,” Girouard recalled.
If there were ever a coach who built a program from the ground up, it was Yvette Girouard.
Then came fields in the Cajun Field parking lots, retrieving balls from drains and chicken-wire fence.
She still remembers seeing the site of the program’s first real softball field — known for years as Lady Cajun Park — before being renamed Lamson Park. As Girouard has described many times, that first sight of it featured “barns, cows, bulls, mice, no access to the field and 5-foot tall grass.”
By 1997, it was considered by some the best softball field in the country.
Girouard coached UL’s program from 1981 until 2000, accumulating a 759-250 record. Her career head coaching record is 1,285-421.
She was NFCA National Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1993.
Fittingly, her name is now on the field around a fancy new ball park she never dreamed could result from an old dairy farm field.
“This has always been home for me,” Girouard said. “This was a labor of love the entire time I was here. I loved our program and what it stood for. I still love it to this day.”