The “field of dreams” paints an idealistic picture of a baseball diamond, but Troy and Josh Laborde want to help others turn those aspirations to reality.
In the year since they launched Laborde Baseball to train up-and-coming baseball players, the Port Allen duo has already seen the fruits of their labor.
Troy and Josh helped nine area players land collegiate scholarships — including five from West Baton Rouge Parish.
Brusly graduates Taylor and Cullen Prejean landed scholarships with Southern University, while teammate Cameron Willis will play for Morthland Community College in West Frankfort, Illinois. BHS graduate Logan Smith landed a scholarship with BRCC.
Port Allen graduate Torrence Purnell will also play on scholarship at BRCC.
Other signees include St. Michaels graduate James Fontenot, a signee with Southern University, as well as Ascension Catholic alumnus Adam Falcon, who will go from BRCC to Nicholls State. Brodie Browning of Central will play for BRCC, while West Feliciana graduate Hunter Duvic will join Northwestern State after two years at Hinds Community College in Jackson, Miss.
“We’ve done very well with this,” Troy said. “We opened up last year, and in just one full year, we’ve seen tons of kids from this area.”
Brandon Samson of Redemptorist, who trained and coached the 16-year-old team that won the AAU Underclassmen National Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., will play catcher at LSU- Alexandria.
“This season we had the opportunity to play a role in the lives of some great guys,” Samson said. “We saw them transform from complete strangers into a team, then into champions, and most importantly a family. That is why we do what we do: To have an impact, whether it be in baseball or life.”
The 16-U team finished 17-10-1, while the 19U team finished 16-16 (which included nine come-from-behind wins).
Troy, who pitched at Southern University, said he wants to see more players from West Baton Rouge Parish reach the collegiate ranks.
“Our biggest goal is to get kids to the next level,” he said. “We’re not only giving them a chance to play baseball on another level after high school – they’re also getting an education.”
Troy also had a deeper inspiration for wanting to guide players to the college ranks.
“Adversity had a lot to do with it,” Laborde said. “Being a short guy and not the typical college athletic player, I was still able to work hard to get that point, so when I finally hit the end of the road as far as my career, I felt there were a lot of kids who could be the next college baseball player if they get a little help.”
Troy has maintained a strong friendship with longtime Southern baseball coach Roger Cador, which has helped land the players into college ball.
“He signed three guys this year alone, so I’d have to say he and I have a good relationship,” Troy said. “He likes the product we present to our players.”
Major League Baseball is the next goal for the Labordes. He believes it’s s strong possibility several West Baton Rouge players could get the call from MLB in coming years.
“We have some kids in the 11- and 12-year-old bracket who could be the next Bryce Harper, the player for the Washington Nationals who signed just right out of high school,” Troy said. “We have some kids right now on the brink of becoming that next player.”
One such player is Matthew Jones of Brusly, whose brother played on the 16U championship team. The other is Jacob Coleman of Erwinville.
“Our biggest goal is to get kids to the next level, “Troy said.
He believes West Baton Rouge could someday gain recognition as one of the biggest baseball hotbeds in Louisiana, even more so than Livingston and Ascension parishes.
But changes must take place for that to happen, he said.
“The trouble in this area is that we have too many teams and what we’d like to do is get everyone to unite and play these other parishes, and show them this is what we offer,” Troy said. “When we have a 12 year-old age group that has four teams in the parish, we’re making it harder. We should unite them as a team as one group of great players, we can show people what its truly like to play baseball here.
“One thing we’d love to see is that we put West Baton Rouge on the map as a well developed baseball community,” he said.