Ragin’ Cajuns fans meet, greet favorite players

A line of about 75 people clad in bright red Ragin’ Cajuns gear waited patiently in Sunday’s sunny, 60-degree weather outside the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field as countless more vermilion clusters of Cajuns supporters made their way from the parking lot.

Fans young and old came to get autographs from the Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team and watch the home run derby and a short intra-squad game on the Ragin’ Cajuns 2014 Fan Day.

The line slowly made its way around the u-shaped tables, where players signed autographs, to the concession stand, where attendees helped themselves to free hot dogs and drinks.

“We’re taking our little 7-year-old boy to meet the players,” said Josh Jagneaux, motioning to his son, Landon.

Landon said he plays T-ball, but he doesn’t have a favorite position yet.

“We just came from the girls’ game,” added Jagneaux’s wife, Devin Jagneaux, referring to the game between the Ragin’ Cajuns softball team and the Purdue Boilermakers at Lamson Ragin’ Cajuns Softball Park, next to the baseball field.

Francis Leblanc said he came with his wife, Angel, his 5-year-old son, Carson, and his wife’s 9-year-old godchild.

“Baseball’s good for the kids,” Leblanc said. “It will let my son get some mentors with athletics. It’s just some positive stuff.”

The stands slowly filled as fans found their way from the autograph table to their seats where they awaited the start of the home run derby.

Outfielder and second baseman Ryan Leonards, 22, is in his senior year at UL-Lafayette. He said fans offer the team plenty of help.

“We enjoy coming out here every day and having the fans’ support,” Leonards said. “I’ve been here four years. It’s a long season, and it’s hard bringing the energy every day, but (the fans) help us with their energy, and we can just go out there and focus on playing baseball.”

“The fans are a gigantic support system,” said assistant coach Matt Deggs, “especially when you’re playing at home. The atmosphere is kind of like having a 10th man out there on the field with you. (The fans) are a big-time advantage for us.”

Deggs said the team aims to give back as much as possible to the community by being involved in community service projects as well hosting fan days for the team’s devotees to gather, relax and just have fun together.

Leonards said he plans to give it his all on the field this season to reward fans for their loyal support to the Cajuns baseball team.

“We’re going to come out here every day, and whether we win or lose, we’re going to play hard,” Leonards said. “We’re going to be a good team. We’re going to fight, and hopefully, we’ll have a good game to watch.”

After last season’s impressive 43-20 overall record that ended with a loss to LSU in the regional playoffs, the Ragin’ Cajuns came out swinging this year, garnering their highest ranking in preseason polls at 14th in the nation, according to Baseball America.

The team is scheduled to play its first game of the season at home at 6 p.m. Friday against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers.