What is the measure of a life?
If it is not important, as Jackie Robinson said, except for the impact it has on other lives, then Roger Cador’s life has been a championship winner.
You could measure what he’s meant in the friends, family and former players who turned out Monday night at the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel convention center for his annual fundraiser to benefit Southern’s baseball program and youth baseball.
It was an event this year that also served as a retirement sendoff to one of Southern’s longest-tenured coaches and certainly one of its greatest ambassadors.
Cador spent 33 years at the helm of Jaguars baseball, in that time arguably doubling as the smiling countenance of the entire athletic program and perhaps the university at large.
“After so many years of beautiful experiences at Southern, I’ve been able to get to this point because two things happened,” Cador said. “Hard work and parents who trusted me with their most prized possession: their kids.
“Tonight is the culmination of what it has been — 30-some years of staying on that road, not going to the left or to the right, not thinking negatively, using the positive.”
It was positively an outpouring of love for Cador, from the Human Jukebox, which made a brassy, percussion-heavy surprise appearance at the event, to the Dancing Dolls (who took a photo with Cador before leaving) to the former Southern players who crowded around him for another portrait as the evening drew to a close.
Through it all were people who were drawn to this night by a couple of common threads: their love of baseball, and their love of a baseball man — Cador, who more than one player said made them better people for having been around him.
It was a similar sentiment expressed by LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who said he tried to hire Cador as his assistant coach when he made it to Notre Dame in 1995.
“He has a tremendous reputation throughout the country as one of the best people in baseball,” said Mainieri, delivering the event’s keynote address. “If more people felt about each other the way Roger and I do, the world would be a much better place. Roger Cador has made the world a much better place.”
Among those in attendance were Southern president Ray Belton and athletic director Roman Banks, as well as new Southern baseball coach Kerrick Johnson, though notably not any of the 2018 Southern baseball players.
“Kerrick, you’re in a big shadow,” Mainieri said. “I know what that’s like.”
Also in attendance were a number of former Jaguars major leaguers, among them Rickie Weeks, Trenidad Hubbard, Fred Lewis and Coco Crisp (though Crisp never actually played at Southern). The rest of the Major League lineup included Will Clark, David Dellucci, Mike Fontenot, Terry Fox, Chuck McElroy, Brian McRae, Andre Robertson, Art Swanson and Eddie Yarnall.
After all the words and honors from others, Cador took the mic and recalled his first attempt at making a baseball team growing up near New Roads.
“My first coach, Roosevelt Collins, he cut me,” Cador said, the familiar evergreen smile still shining through. “I came back the next day.
“I was stubborn.”
Fortunately he was, for reasons that transcend his 913 career wins, 14 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and 11 NCAA tournament appearances.
“I was put here to help people,” Cador said. “It’s amazing how beautiful people are when you just talk to them.”
During his talk, Mainieri quoted the popular Linda Ellis poem, “The Dash.” If you don’t know it, it’s about a man eulogizing a friend, noting the years of his birth and death and the dash that connects them. The important thing, the man in the poem says, is how well we live the dash in between the dates.
“I can think of no one,” Mainieri said, “who has had a better dash than Roger Cador.”
It would be hard to argue the umpire’s call on that one.