NEOSHO, Mo. — Baseball coaches can go their entire career without much recognition despite the successes they’ve accomplished.
That is not the case for Crowder coach Travis Lallemand.
On Saturday, with Lallemand, his family, former players and coaches, administrators and faculty as well as the Roughrider baseball and softball teams present, Crowder College officially renamed Roughriders Baseball Field to Lallemand Family Field in a ceremony to honor its coach.
“It’s surreal,” Lallemand said. “It’s not something I want to take in with a lot of humility, but I am very proud and very honored that they felt compelled enough to represent our family, and our Roughrider baseball family by putting that name up there.
“It is a representation to me of the family support, the players that have been through here and the support structure it has created here at Crowder for me and for us as a coaching staff.”
Coach Lallemand wasn’t quick to accept the honor of having the field renamed after him. In fact, he gave a little pushback when he was first approached with the idea. However, after some time, he decided to accept the honor only if the name encompassed everyone he felt was a major role in his success with the Roughriders.
“I didn’t want it to be just one name up there because I haven’t had an at-bat and I haven’t thrown a pitch here,” Lallemand said. “There are a lot of people who deserve the credit on the field, and we just kind of guide them from the background.”
Following the ceremony, the Roughriders held an intersquad scrimmage on the newly-annointed Lallemand Family Field. Crowder’s previous season was cut short in the spring when the sports world shut down because of the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The Roughriders were in the midst of a strong season to say the least.
“We ended the season last year at 23-3 and No. 2 in the country, and that was a gut punch for a lot of people,” Lallemand said. “We weren’t the only ones in that category, but most of those guys are back here this year. We lost five players, so to have most of them back and to see the hunger that they show on a daily basis is really important.”
To provide a fun atmosphere, parents, former players and coaches and fans were all in attendance to see some live Roughrider baseball for the first time since last year.
“This was an opportunity to get the guys together and play in front of a crowd to see what a little bit of a spring atmosphere is really like,” Lallemand said. “We have umpires coming out today, and that is not typical for the fall. These guys only got 26 games in (last season) and I wanted them to have a spring feeling this fall.”
Lallemand was an assistant coach for three years before taking over as the man in charge of the program in 2006. He has built up a 598-272 career record, which includes five Region 16 Championships and two South Central District Championships as well as two trips to the JUCO World Series. Lallemand has been named the Region 16 Coach of the Year five times and was named the South Central District Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2017.
“Well, every night you go home and it kind of guides your work,” Lallemand said. “There are a lot of long hours, just like in any coaching realm. I am so proud just to look out in the stands and see all the former players here. Not just what they did on the field, but what they are doing with their lives now being responsible and productive citizens.”
Since Lallemand has taken over the reigns at Crowder College, he has had 91 players move on to play baseball for NCAA Division I programs, with 34 players drafted by Major League Baseball. Crowder has had 43 players named first-team Region 16, with nine players being named NJCAA All-Americans since Lallemand was named head coach. Currently, Sam Hilliard (Colorado Rockies), Jalen Beeks (Tampa Bay Rays) and Mike Kickham (Boston Red Sox) all spent time on MLB rosters in 2020.
“I talk to Hilliard, Kicker and Beeks quite a bit, and they are in the big leagues right now,” Lallemand said. “I got off the phone with Hilliard Thursday night. It is awesome to hear the experiences they are having now. Obviously, what they learned here, they ran with and made it their own. I am not taking credit for what they have done because they deserve all the credit, but it is great to keep up with them and their new life experiences.”
“To develop them physically is one thing, but my main job is managing people,” Lallemand continued when asked about his role with his players. “To make sure they leave here with more than being a junior college baseball player. Understanding what it is to be a student, to be an athlete but also what it means to be a person.
“We treat kids right. It’s not always easy and there is some tough love involved. Development gets uncomfortable at times, but it is always meant for the players and their betterment. … The kids are just coming here out of high school, most of them, and they are coming here for guidance. We have to be that support structure away from home for them. I enjoy embracing that challenge and I enjoy the end product when they leave here.”