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Photo: Former Opelousas recreation league baseball player Lenny Zerangue poses with Port Barre softball pitcher Emma Krow, who has signed a college scholarship with Centenary.

Contributing Writer

If there was a better time for growing up and playing sports, Lenny Zerangue can’t imagine one better than his days participating in Opelousas’ South City Park youth league baseball.

Zerangue, who has since established a nationally-recognized girls’ fast-pitch softball academy in Broussard, says all he has to do is pull out his scrapbook and review the many photos that for him evoke pleasant memories.

“From time to time, I go back and look at all the pictures of the kids I grew up with and the teams we played for back then. The degree of competitiveness was outstanding. You would get on your bike, go to the park and watch the games all afternoon. There was great talent that was developed by some great coaches,” Zerangue said.

Zerangue was at Port Barre High last Friday when one of his fast-pitch students, Port Barre pitcher Emma Krow, announced that she was signing a scholarship to play softball at Centenary.

Glancing through a nostalgic lens, Zerangue cast a backwards view at Opelousas youth league baseball and remembered some of the players who were developed in the parks program there during the late 1950’s and 1960’s, before they became high school and college standouts.

“What’s amazing is there were so many of them. I played catcher and I caught guys like Peter Workman, Jay Cormier. Then there were other great pitchers like John Daigle, Charles Soileau and of course who could forget “Hiyah” Didier, who went on to play in the major leagues with a couple of teams,” Zerangue said.

Zerangue also recalled another parks’ league pitching legend, Benny Devillier, who Zerangue recalled had one of the liveliest fastballs of that era.

Although he wasn’t expecting to become a catcher, Zerangue said he developed a quick affinity for the position when he was nine or 10 years old.

“I was on the Bears in Little League and the starting catcher (Johnny Guidry) had gotten hurt. My coach (Sidney Ardoin) told me to put on the chest protector that I was going to catch. He threw balls to me, but they were in the dirt and away from me. He showed me how to block the ball with my chest and body.

“That really helped because me because I was catching guys like (Workman) and (Cormier) who threw hard,” Zerangue said.

The idea for the pitching academy developed about 30 years ago, Zerangue said.

“I had a daughter who wanted to pitch. I thought in order to help teach her, I needed to reach out, so I began going to clinics and getting advice from some of the best softball pitchers and coaches in America,” Zerangue said.

Zerangue said he also picked up advice from college head coaches such as Beth Torina (LSU) and Kyla Hall Hollas, at the University of Houston.

“I also did a lot of reading, looking at videos, driving around the country to clinics. Then I started my own program and so far of the 100 or so kids that have come to my school, 94 of them have gone on to pitch somewhere in college,” Zerangue pointed out.

Zerangue said he has also been associated with coaching and providing pitching talent for the Wichita Mustangs Softball Academy, a non-profit select team which recruits some of the best players nationwide.