In his second season with the Falmouth Commodores, Hayden Cantrelle seems to have a permanent smile.
The 5-foot-11 infielder from UL Lafayette is usually planning his post game shenanigans after victories or creating content for his YouTube channel.
He sports a curly, blonde mohawk similar to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr’s hairdo.
Above it all, Cantrelle has been stellar both defensively and at the plate. He’s batting .297 this summer with three home runs and 12 RBIs getting the nod as the West Division All-Stars’ starting shortstop.
“I just come out and have fun,” Cantrelle said. “Every time I come out and I’m playing like a little kid, I know I’m playing my best.”
You wouldn’t know what he’s going through.
On July 3, 2019, Ragin’ Cajuns longtime baseball head coach Tony Robichaux died of a heart attack. He was 57 years old.
“It’s been a rough week or so for us,” Hayden’s father Kevin Cantrelle said. “He was a great coach but he taught us more about lessons in life. The things we can do after our playing careers.”
Kevin Cantrelle played at UL Lafayette under head coach Robichaux from 1995-1998. Playing baseball under coach Robichaux was a family tradition for the Cantrelles.
The college baseball community in Lafayette is one of the strongest in the nation. Despite not being in a Power 5 conference, the Ragin’ Cajuns annually rank in the top ten for college baseball attendance.
“He was a staple of our community,” Hayden Cantrelle said about coach Robichaux. “There’s a big hole that needs to be filled and it’s a very tough job to be filled by anybody.”
This is not the first time Hayden Cantrelle has dealt with loss. At 10 years old, Cantrelle’s mother, Heather Geissler, died. She was 36.
“I was young so I didn’t get to experience the teenager days,” Cantrelle said. “She was cool. She was fun and energetic.”
The Louisiana native holds as many memories of his mom as he can. He remembers tossing the pigskin out in the backyard with her and watching Fifty First Dates.
But one important lesson from his mom has stuck with Cantrelle and it’s something coaches, teammates and fans can see on and off the field.
“She always taught me about enjoying the little things and being positive about life,” Cantrelle said. “That’s something I always carry around with me.”
“He’s a free spirit,” Kevin Cantrelle said. “He marches to the beat of his own drum. I think he loves to play and he lives in the moment.”
The idea of treasuring the little things and being positive meshes perfectly with manager Jeff Trundy’s Cape League coaching style: have fun.
“He is really trying to provide us with some leadership,” Trundy said about Cantrelle in his second season. “When you do that, you aren’t trying to chase a number, you are just worried about trying to help the team win. That’s what this team needs to do. Have fun.”
“He is the reason why I’m having the year that I’m having,” Hayden Cantrelle said about Trundy. “He brings positivity to a game that’s so negative all the time. It helps so much to know that there’s another opportunity to make up for your mistakes.”
Now, whether in the Cape League or at school, the rising junior who grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana will embody the ideals left behind by his late head coach.
“As a former player of his, it’s important that I carry his attitudes of toughness and perseverance in anything I do,” Cantrelle said.
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Maxwell Trink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @MaxwellTrink.