Stew To Southern

Southern coach Roger Cador has built one of the nation’s better programs over the last decade–the Jaguars ranked at No. 44 on BA’s ranking of the top 64 programs since 1999–but the last couple of years haven’t been as easy for Cador’s club. Since winning 44 games with Rickie Weeks’ last club in 2003 (including a 1-2 regional mark), the Jaguars have won just 81 games in three subsequent seasons as the university’s financial commitment to the baseball program has wavered. When assistant coach Barret Rey became Grambling’s new head coach last summer, Cador was not allowed to hire a full-time replacement.

When former big leaguer Dave Stewart heard Cador’s plight this offseason, he told his old friend he’d do something about it. So there Stewart was Thursday night, eating dinner in Baton Rouge and getting ready for his first weekend as Southern’s volunteer assistant coach. The 50-year-old Stewart will be with the Jaguars program for a week, lending advice only a 168-game winner in the big leagues can.

“I’ve known Roger since longer than either of us can remember,” Stewart said. “I just think today’s players don’t necessarily understand how we–and I mean we as Southern already–have a tradition of winning but also of academics, of producing student-athletes who maintain a high GPA while also learning the game and participating in sports.

“Plus, when Roger told me he was going to be coaching the pitchers, I knew he needed help.”

Stewart values the history of the game and relishes becoming a link in the game’s chain of pitching knowledge. He learned from Sandy Koufax at Dodgertown’s spring training and instructional league mounds in the late 1970s, as Koufax learned from employees of Branch Rickey back in the 1950s. Now Stewart will teach Southern’s pitchers a bit about the game’s history, and why the game deserves their respect.

“I think the first thing I have to do is build credibility with the players, so they can know about why I might know what I’m talking about,” said Stewart, who won three World Series rings (Dodgers ’81, A’s ’89 and Blue Jays ’93). “One of them was telling me about Roger Clemens, and I said, ‘Do you know that I owned Clemens in the ’80s? I used to beat him every time!’ So hopefully they’re going to be receptive to the message I’m bringing to them.”

The Jaguars play a three-game series against Southeastern Louisiana starting today.