Leading-hitter Lahare makes move for UL baseball team

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

It’s been a while.

But for Daniel Lahare, returning to the position he’ll likely play the most this season is a lot like getting back on a bike after a while away.

It just takes a little bit of time to remember what's what. But finding the balance should be no biggie.

Because for much of his baseball life, the Ragin’ Cajun senior has gone back and forth between the outfield, where he was in 2018, and the bag at first, where he could be in 2019.

“So it was quite an easy transition,” Lahare said of the move made in the fall. “It’s not too much of a problem for me.”

More:Robichaux addresses UL position battles, team health

UL's Daniel Lahare dives back last season to first base, which is where he'll probably play the most this season.

It remains to be seen, however, if Lahare actually will get the start at first when UL opens its season Friday night against No. 16 Texas on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park, the first outing in a three-game non-conference weekend series with the Longhorns.

Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said Lahare recently has been dealing with a sore hand, the lone new injury UL has had to deal with this year.

If Lahare can’t go, Robichaux said catcher Handsome Monica probably would get the call at first.

But if Lahare is healthy, and Monica, who missed most of last year with injuries, is good to go behind the plate, the plan is to go with Lahare at first.

The reason, evidently, is two-fold.

A season ago, when he started 37 games in centerfield and 16 in left, Lahare led all UL hitters with a team-high average of .321.

He was named to the 2019 preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team — as an outfielder.

Related:Cajun trio named to preseason All-Sun Belt team

But the combination of an old injury from his days at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and plenty of outfield options this year for UL, which had a hole to plug on the infield, prompted the position change.

“He used to play first base,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “Plus he’s had a torn labrum that he had in junior college.

“It’s acted up on him a little bit. So, for throwing purposes, and because of the depth we have in the outfield, we’ve moved him in to first base.”

That’s fine by Lahare, a product of Brother Martin High in New Orleans who came to UL last season.

“I’m a team player,” Lahare said. “I’m not gonna complain about anything.”

No excuses, either.

“I’m not gonna say that my shoulder is gonna have anything to do with this season,” Lahare said. “I’m more than capable of throwing a baseball as hard as I want. But we have an unbelievable outfield staff this year.”

More:Lots of questions for Cajuns pitching staff led by Leger


Robichaux said Lahare does not plan to have surgery on the shoulder, and — if the arm allows — the Cajuns coach left the door open to his perhaps playing in the outfield on occasion this year.

But UL really is stacked with outfield talent, so much so that Marco Ramos — who appeared in 21 games last season — didn’t make it past fall-ball cuts despite having a season of eligibility remaining.

St. Thomas More High product Brennan Breaux, a junior transfer from LSU who sat out last season in accord with NCAA rules, is a potential starter in center.

“He had a good fall,” Robichaux said of Breaux, who played in 49 games as an outfielder and pinch-runner for the Tigers as a freshman and in 30 games as a sophomore.

Fellow STM product Orynn Veillon, who began his college career as a redshirt at UL and is back after stints at LSU-Eunice and the University of New Orleans, is a candidate to start in right, as is junior Jordan Wiley, a Texas high school product who joins the Cajuns after stints at two junior colleges. 

“He’s a great baseball player, a great hitter,” Lahare said of Veillon.

“He (Veillon) had a good fall, and he’ll be one of the guys that I think can help us this season,” Robichaux added. “We’ve got some very good outfielders out there. That’s why we had to trim the roster.”

And senior Gavin Bourgeois — who hit .311 last year, second-best among all Cajuns — is back.

He started 37 games in left field and 22 in centerfield last season, and could wind up spending most of his time this season in left.

Related:The payoff is now for UL outfielders Lahare, Bourgeois

“He did a great job for us last year, hitting and fielding-wise,” Lahare said. “So I’m excited to see where this is going.”

So is Robichaux, who has solid speed in the outfield, which should help his young pitching staff, and — with lots of moving parts — lefty-righty options that he hasn’t always had in the past.

“We’ve got a very good outfield,” the Cajuns coach said, “so we’ll have to just keep working through it.

“It’s just a matter of trying … to use the guys that are hot when they’re hot, and knowing that we’re safe in case we got an injury.”


All of which is why moving Lahare made the most sense to Robichaux.

“If Lahare can play at first,” he said, “it opens up centerfield, which opens up the DH.”

The Cajuns don’t want to clog the designated hitter spot. And they want to find room for Breaux. And they'd prefer that Monica handle at least some of the catching duties.

More:With UL's Monica back, Cajuns have plan behind plate

So in goes Lahare, who has been at first a few innings “here and there” but — to the best of his recollection — hasn’t played there regularly since he was a sophomore in high school.

That’s a while ago.

And that means having to hop back up on the saddle seat and remembering how to push the pedals.

So lots to learn, right?  

Not really, he suggests.

“What people think is hard about first base is probably picking balls,” Lahare said, “but I’ve always been very good at being able to judge throws and knowing where to put my glove and how to go through the ball.

“Probably the biggest thing for me right now is just fielding ground balls. You don’t do that a whole lot in the outfield. And if it is (coming), it’s kind of slow to you.

“Our coaches,” he added, “have done a really good job of getting me back into the swing of that.”

More:Cajuns getting little respect in preseason baseball polls


Speaking of swings, Lahare has been working on that as well.

He said he spent the offseason focused on “trying not to get to my pull side so much – being able to just react to that, and really being able to keep my hands inside and drive the ball the other way.”

It’s all part of an effort to improve on-base percentage.

And that’s because it is on the base paths that Lahare can do some real damage.

He led UL in steals last season with 22, four more than returning shortstop Hayden Cantrelle and five more than returning second baseman Hunter Kasuls.

“I’m really gonna try to steal a lot more bases,” Lahare said. “I’m feeling confident with my leads, and being able to steal bags.

“I’m one of the quicker guys on the team, (and) I’m hoping to be one of the leaders in stolen bases on the team. (So) a big part of my plan is to get on base a lot.

“We have a lot of very powerful hitters behind me, and Cantrelle, and Kasuls,” Lahare added. “We’re all very fast, and we have people like Todd Lott, Handsome Monica, Jordan Wiley. They all have tremendous power, and it takes a lot of stress off of us to not have to really try to produce everything.”

As to where Lahare will hit in the lineup — leadoff is a possibility — that will become clearer over the weekend.

But first things first.

“I’m gonna be a team player,” he said. “If he has me hitting ninth, if he has me sitting on the bench, I’ll be cheering on my team.”

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