Feeling Chipper? Baseball legend set to speak at Nicholls

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Nicholls State University head baseball coach Seth Thibodeaux is the kind of guy that doesn’t take no for an answer.

That determination is why the Colonels’ APR has jumped from the bottom-tier of the Southland Conference to the top. They are now one of the academic leaders among baseball programs in the Southeast.

The go-getter mentality is also why the Colonels were able to net 32-win season in 2014, including a 21-9 record in the conference. This success is a stark contrast from the 10-44 record Nicholls had in 2008, showing just how far the team has come.

Thibodeaux’s determination is also the driving force that will bring baseball legend Chipper Jones to the area in January.

The longtime Atlanta Braves legend will headline the Colonels’ annual First Pitch Banquet on Jan. 31, 2015 at the Cypress Columns in Gray.

The event will take place at 7 p.m., and it will feature a live band, silent auction, dinner and a cash bar, in addition to Jones’ speech.

Tickets are $75 per seat or $600 for a table of 10. Those wanting to attend are asked to contact Nicholls Associate Head Coach Chris Prothro at (985) 448-4882 or by email at chris.prothro@nicholls.edu.

Thibodeaux said there’s “no way” the event won’t sell out, adding that those wishing to attend the event should act now.

“Chipper Jones is a household name in the sport of baseball,” Thibodeaux said. “He’s like Derek Jeter. He’s just one of those names that if you say it aloud, everyone knows immediately who you’re talking about. For him to be coming by, it’s great for our program. It’s also great for fans in our area and for the sport of baseball locally. I’m so excited for our players, because for them to be able to pick his brain a little bit, it’ll be an experience that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

There is no questioning Jones’ pedigree as one of the top players of this generation.

Jones played his entire 19-year career with the Braves, firmly establishing himself as one of the best switch-hitting players of all-time. Jones’ peak came in the 1999 season when he won the National League MVP Award. In that season, Chipper hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBI with 25 stolen bases. Several of Jones’ biggest blows in that season came in September and October, helping power the Atlanta Braves to the playoffs.

Jones was also a World Series Champion in 1995 and won the National League batting title in 2008. For his career, he hit .303 with 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI – the most-ever by any third baseman. His number was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 2013 – the year after his retirement.

Thibodeaux said he’s always been a fan of Jones because of the Braves’ former contract with TBS that put them on TV for more than 100 games in a season. The Nicholls coach said that as soon as Chipper retired, the wheels started spinning about booking him to speak at the First Pitch Banquet.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get him down here,’” Thibodeaux said.

It took two years, several phone calls to Jones’ agent and help from former coaches, but Thibodeaux said he finally received a commitment from Jones earlier this year. He will travel from his ranch in Texas to Louisiana for the Colonels’ big weekend.

Thibodeaux said he was “fired up” as soon as he heard the news that his hard work had netted a commitment from Jones.

The Colonels’ First Pitch banquet has featured speakers like Skip Bertman, Ed Orgeron and other prominent names in the past.

“It’s just amazing to see how much our banquet has grown to the point to where it is today,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s funny because I was thinking to myself the other day – I’ve got to get to work to get a speaker for 2016 now, because when you have Chipper Jones, you’re setting the bar pretty high.”

Jones’ appearance will dominate the headlines, but the entire weekend in Thibodaux is pretty special.

The day begins at Ray E. Didier Field with an Old-Timers game that will take place at 11 a.m.

After that, the Colonels’ 2015 squad will take on a team consisting of notable members of the Colonels’ alumni.

As the sun sinks into the sky, everyone gets cleaned up and heads to the Cyprus Columns for the banquet. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the ceremony starts at 7.

“It’s such an awesome weekend. It makes me so proud,” Thibodeaux said. “To see so many people in the Nicholls family come back and show their love for our program, it gives you a really warm feeling. It just really reaffirms that you’re doing things the right way and you’re building something that people are proud of.”

Thibodeaux said the Colonels’ big weekend is an annual kick-off to the team’s upcoming baseball season. He said he plans to continue to grow the weekend in the future, hoping to add coaching camps and other things to the weekend slate.

“We’re just trying to grow the sport of baseball in our community,” Thibodeaux said. “This is great for our community, but it’s really a win-win anytime you can get people excited about the sport of baseball. We’re going to keep looking for ways to grow this thing. We’re going to keep trying to make it better and better.

“We got Chipper Jones this year. That’ll be hard to top. Maybe next year, I’ll need Babe Ruth to keep people happy,” Thibodeaux said with a laugh. “I don’t know if that’s possible, but any way that we can keep doing this is something we’ll explore.”

Atlanta Braves great Chipper Jones poses with a baseball bat during his playing career. The longtime dominant third baseman will be coming to the Cypress Columns for the Nicholls State University baseball team’s annual First Pitch Banquet. Nicholls baseball coach Seth Thibodeaux said that the event will easily sell out, so now is the time to purchase your ticket to be a part of the big night.