By Trent Friedel, Exclusive to the Times
Amid the trials and tribulations of a Global Pandemic, there are still happy stories to report in the world of sports. All forms of athletics are currently on hold but not the athletes that compete in those sports. As I write this, Saint Mary’s should be hosting district competition Northwood-Lena. I
t’s no Aprils’ fool though that Patrick Vienne, a junior member of that St. Mary’s team, has emerged as a real presence on the mound for his Tiger team and coach Brooks McMinn. Vienne announced Monday, March 30 that he will be continuing his baseball career locally at Northwestern State University after completing his senior season next year. He was offered the opportunity last year after a visit to the school and attending a showcase camp hosted by the university.
Vienne had also garnered attention from McNeese, Southeastern and Wichita State. I spoke with Vienne about the decision to play at the next level and keep the family tradition going. His grandfather, Francis Vienne, played at NSU and so did his grandfather’s brother, Julien. His dad, Mike Vienne, a St. Mary’s alumnus, also played baseball at Northwestern. Mike was recruited to play football and wanted to play both sports but settled on baseball after a two-sport career proved difficult with his course load and chosen major. Mike went on to dental school after his collegiate days and returned to Natchitoches to setup his practice.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s when Mike played, the baseball coach, Herby Smith, was also an assistant football coach. Coach Smith was more than okay with his pitcher’s decision to focus on baseball only. So, Patrick has the baseball pedigree and will be the fourth Vienne to dress in a Demon uniform.
Patrick is hopeful, as are the rest of his Tiger teammates, that something can be salvaged of this baseball season. If not the regular season, then there is the possibility of June baseball. Vienne has continued to throw with his dad during this down time and works out at home on the weights to get stronger. It’s tough to maintain that game mentality and it’s different than throwing to a batter in the box, but something is better than nothing right now. One of the deciding factors came down to playing here at home and the coaching staff.
“I like all the coaches and they also think I can come in and play some early on.” Patrick said, “That’s one of the things I wanted was an opportunity to play and I think I’ll get that here.”
Patrick’s mom, Marty, on his decision to remain in Natchitoches. “I’m so happy he will be continuing to play baseball in college as a Demon. I know the coaches are great role models for him. Can’t wait to see him in Demon purple and white.”
If the June games don’t occur, then Patrick also has summer ball to hopefully get something done on the mound playing for Team Louisiana. Either way, the young man is driven to improve and even add something to his pitching arsenal.
Coach Brooks McMinn has been nothing but supportive for his right-handed ace and has seen him grow on the mound. It obviously started with a smoking fastball but progressed to having good control of a curve that freezes many batters in the box. McMinn’s take on his ace’s decision and what guidance he offered Patrick was to try and have fun with the process. He told Patrick to “enjoy the recruitment process as much as you can. It can be stressful but look at it as a positive thing, not a stressful one.” In the end said McMinn, I told him to “pray about it and discuss it a lot with his family.” He called Coach McMinn the evening before the announcement.
Coach McMinn says NSU has a great coaching staff and the program there has been making positive strides lately. He’s excited to see Vienne continue at the next level. Mike Vienne certainly is proud of his youngest child saying that, “ultimately the decision was going to be his and his alone, but we are really excited and proud of him and his decision to stay close so we can see him play.”
NSU will be getting a quality young man, local talent staying with the local team.
Coach Bobby Barbier also received news on this season’s altered trajectory on the same day when the NCAA voted to reinstate eligibility for spring athletes affected by the shutdown of sports.