I am well aware of his status as one of the Most Influential People in South Louisiana Sports, as one newspaper called him. I have full knowledge of his upcoming induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
All fine. All good.
There are lots of ways to describe Jay Cicero and you can choose to think of him however you like.
I’m just having a hard time getting past thinking of him as the freshman third baseman on the Jesuit Flyer baseball team in 1977.
I was already ensconced – at least I hoped I was – as the returning starter at third base for the Flyers that season. In fact, the whole starting infield returned from the previous year. But when we went out to take infield practice on the first day, I had a quick uh-oh moment.
My “backup” was the coach’s son.
And the rumor was that Frank Cicero was going to be retiring as head coach fairly soon, so it would stand to reason that he might want to hit fungoes to his son rather than me while that was still a possibility.
I waited and waited for Coach Cicero to say, “Hey Marshall, come see me for a minute” and if so, I knew what was probably coming next. “Ever play outfield?” Or, “We really need a backup catcher.”
But that never happened. Jay didn’t even make the team and Coach Cicero did retire after 27 years.
Fast forward almost a decade and I’m now the P.A. guy for the Shreveport Captains as they opened Fair Grounds Field. I was introduced to the new front office employee for the team: Jay Cicero. I waited a few minutes to make sure he didn’t remind me of some cruel Senior Prank I might have pulled on him – I didn’t, by the way – and then I thought of how this was the perfect guy for the Captains to hire.
He knew baseball, he loved baseball, he had a personality that would get him in a lot of doors and he would do whatever needed to be done.
Cicero was part of a group of special people who made Shreveport Captains baseball such a big deal. Everything about it was new and fun and exciting, but he was never able to watch a full game because his walkie-talkie was always blaring of some fire to put out.
When Cicero left after 4 ½ years, there was no doubt that he was on his way to bigger things. It didn’t take long for him to find his path in sports in New Orleans, including becoming the youngest general manager in all of Class AAA minor league baseball at age 29.
As Jay settled into his role as CEO and President of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, his father had already settled into retirement, first as a coach and then as a science instructor in 1995. I’d see Coach Cicero quite often and the pride he showed in how much Jay had accomplished was obvious. “Jay got the Super Bowl,” Coach would tell me. Or “Jay thinks he has a shot at the Final Four.”
Coach passed away at age 92 in 2018 but I can promise you one thing – if you go to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony next Saturday in Natchitoches, you may not see him, but you will know Coach Frank Cicero is there.
Contact J.J. at JohnJamesMarshall@yaoo.com
Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame