Two men who paved one career path
I often hear from others who marvel about the enjoyment that comes from working in, and writing about, sports.
I’ve thought a lot in the past week about two of the people that helped lead me to that career path, generating emotions from one extreme to another.
Let me take you back to a December night in 1980. I was a junior at Archbishop Rummel High School, in my second year as a student manager and statistician for Jim Robarts’ outstanding basketball program.
Rummel was playing in the annual CYO Tournament when I was introduced to Harold Shelly. Mr. Shelly had learned about my interest in statistics and suggested I expand my horizons by helping the stat crew at Tulane basketball games.
It was then that I first met M.L. Lagarde, Tulane’s then-sports information director. Mr. Lagarde quickly took a liking to this 15-year-old, giving me a chance to work basketball and baseball games before I had even graduated from high school. Late in my senior year, he offered me a job as a student assistant in his office beginning in the fall.
Little did I know it then, but I’ve been fortunate to remain a part of sports in some way – through the media, in various roles in college athletic departments, and publicizing and promoting horse racing during my time at Fair Grounds.
In what would be an ironic twist, I spent this past Saturday at Fogelman Arena working on Cox Sports Television’s production of the Tulane-Tulsa game.
I got two phone calls that day. The first came in the morning from Harold Shelly, inviting me to attend De La Salle High School’s athletic hall of fame ceremony this weekend. Mr. Shelly, who was affiliated with the school’s American Legion baseball program for a half-century, will receive the Br. Ambrose LeBlanc Community Service Award.
That night, the phone rang again. It was Joe Scheuermann, Delgado’s longtime baseball coach and my colleague at Tulane for many years, with sad news. M.L. Lagarde – stellar SID and administrator, outstanding high school coach, terrific junior tennis player and an even better friend and mentor – had died earlier that day.
Two calls, about two very important men in my career, with polar opposite messages.
On Wednesday night, dozens of current and former Tulane staffers, media members and friends gathered just a few blocks from Tulane’s campus to raise a glass to honor M.L. There was a lot of laughter, great stories and wonderful fellowship – all things that M.L. shared with us, many times over, during his 82 years on Earth.
On Saturday night, another crowd will gather at De La Salle, where among the honorees will be Harold Shelly, for his contributions to the school and community.
And I will be thankful that 30 winters ago, both of these men came into my life and help shape my career.
If you didn’t have the chance to watch Wednesday night’s BYU victory over San Diego State and the 43-point show by BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, you missed something special.
The good news for local college basketball fans: You have a 50-50 chance of seeing Fredette in New Orleans in March.
Because of BYU’s religious affiliation, it does not play sporting events on Sunday, so it will have to be placed in a bracket that plays on Thursday and Saturday.
The Southeast Regional at New Orleans Arena March 24 and 26 is a Thursday-Saturday site, along with the West Regional in Anaheim, Calif.
Depending on how San Diego State finishes in the Mountain West Conference, it’s possible the Aztecs will get placed in the Anaheim bracket – a little more than an hour from their campus – and BYU ends up in the Southeast.
It appears the temperatures outside are warming up just in time. It’s now baseball season.
Division I schools can start baseball practice on Friday, with the regular season openers in three weeks. And on the eve of practice, Baseball America released its preseason Top 25 on Thursday, with LSU and Tulane both included.
Loyola, which competes in the NAIA, is starting its regular season on Saturday.
Coach Gee Cassard’s Wolfpack has a pair of doubleheaders against Brescia (Ky.) at Segnette Field this weekend. Loyola, which came within one game of winning the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament last year, will play in the Southern States Athletic Conference for the first time this spring.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…