Professional baseball factory

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant officially retired Reid Brignac's No. 2 jersey on Friday night.

On Friday, it was a special night at The Pit for St. Amant baseball.

Yes, you read that right. In a football stadium in the month of October, it was a moment to celebrate the rich tradition of the St. Amant baseball program.

Before the Gator football team squared off against McKinley in a critical district clash, St. Amant baseball great Reid Brignac became the latest St. Amant player to have his jersey retired. His No. 2 jersey will now be immortalized in Gator Park, along with the jerseys of other Gator greats like Ben and Andy Sheets and Jason Williams.

Friday night’s celebration was just a reminder of the greatness that has circulated throughout the St. Amant baseball program over the years. No other school in Ascension Parish has produced as many Major League players.

Brignac will become the latest former Gator to have his jersey displayed at the park.

After a tremendously successful career at St. Amant, Brignac decided to skip college and go straight to the pros after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2004 MLB Draft.

He played in the minors for a while, before being called up in 2008. His best season came in 2010, when he played 113 games for the Rays and hit .256 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs.

In addition to Tampa Bay, Brignac also played for the Rockies, Yankees, Phillies, Marlins and Braves throughout his professional career.

The last two St. Amant baseball players that had their jerseys retired were Andy Sheets and Jason Williams.

Sheets went on to play at LSU after his successful high-school career with the Gators.

After his time in Baton Rouge, he was drafted in the fourth round of the 1992 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. Throughout his career, he played with them, the Padres, the Angels, the Red Sox and the Rays.

His best professional season came in 1998, when he was with the Padres. Sheets hit .242 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.

Williams played at LSU during one of the greatest stretches in the program’s history.

He was a part of two national championship teams—including the 1996 squad that came back from four runs down to beat Miami on the walkoff homer by Warren Morris.

Williams was also a part of an Olympic bronze medal winning team, and he played in the minor leagues from 1997-2003.

Another former Gator that was part of a championship team at the next level was Kim Batiste.

Like Brignac, he went straight from St. Amant to MLB as he was drafted by the Phillies in the 1987 draft.

He made his debut in 1991 and became a key component in Philadelphia’s run to the World Series title that year.

In the National League Championship series, he came through with a game-winning RBI in the 10th inning of game one.

That season was the best of his professional career as he hit .282 with five home runs and 29 RBIs.

In his five years in the pros, he played for both the Phillies and the Giants.

Ben Sheets is the St. Amant alum that has had the most successful professional career so far.

After his illustrious career with the Gators, he went on to excel at Northeast Louisiana University (now known as UL-Monroe).

Sheets was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1999 MLB Draft. He was eventually called up in 2001.

Throughout his 10-year career, he was a four-time All-Star, he won 94 career games and he finished with a total ERA of 3.78.

His best season came in 2007, when he made 24 starts and finished with a 12-5 record with a 3.82 ERA. The next year, he won a career-best 13 games.

That great Gator baseball tradition that players like Sheets and Brignac helped cultivate is only going to get stronger.

They have another player that very well may have his jersey retired in the future.

Blayne Enlow recently went straight from St. Amant to the majors when he was drafted 76th overall by the Minnesota Twins in the draft this past spring.

Enlow excelled in the Twins’ summer rookie league—going a perfect 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA.

He is just the latest product of what has been a professional baseball factory over the last few decades.