You’re invited, free of charge, this evening from 5-7 to a star-studded casual party — the La Capitol Welcome Reception kicking off the 2023 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.
It’s in downtown Natchitoches, at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street (at the traffic circle) in Natchitoches. No need to dress fancy, just enjoy food and refreshments and music and a world-class museum, mingling with some of our state’s greatest sports stars and their families.
The Class of 2023 includes a two-time Super Bowl MVP (Eli Manning, who arrives Friday), a women’s basketball superstar from Shreveport with Natchitoches roots (Alana Beard), a College World Series-winning LSU coach (Paul Mainieri) and three more TIgers sports heroes (big league pitcher Paul Byrd, NFL receiver Wendell Davis from Shreveport and two-time USA track and field Olympian Walter Davis).
There’s another Pro Bowl NFL star, former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, a Tulane star from Slidell. He did things that only two other NFL backs ever have done, and now runs a charitable foundation and works in a ministry in Chicago.
For fans of the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers, Ron Washington will entertain you – he managed the Rangers to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, and as the current third base coach for the Braves, he was also in that role when Atlanta won the 2021 Fall Classic. He was also third base coach in Oakland during the “Moneyball” years (he’s a featured character in the movie headlined by Brad Pitt).
Braves fans, this is a double bonus for you. Along with “Wash,” Byrd – whose LSU pitching accomplishments are on a short list with Paul Skenes and Ben McDonald – has been a color analyst on Braves TV game coverage who has won regional sports Emmy Awards. Here’s your chance, this evening, to get the inside angle on the club.
Meet the amazing 86-year-old Walter Imahara, a Japanese-American who became a world-class weightlifter for decades – while running a Baton Rouge floral business, and serving in the United States military in the early 1960s. Another Baton Rouge hero is M.L. Woodruff, who won 11 state championships coaching baseball for Parkview Baptist, and now is also involved in a ministry.
Sports journalists Bruce Brown (Lafayette) and Lori Lyons (New Orleans/Houma) have covered many amazing games and highly-accomplished athletes, including plenty of LSHOF members, in their careers and will be inducted next weekend as well.
The Welcome Reception provides the best possible opportunity to stroll around the 27,500-square foot museum, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Lots of display items have been rotated into exhibits, and there’s a new Kim Mulkey exhibit showcasing the LSU women’s basketball coach.
Just ahead — the free Friday evening Rockin’ River Fest concert on the downtown riverbank stage. Music starts at 6, with Manning joining his 2023 classmates on stage at 9:15, followed by a 10-minute fireworks show set to sports-themed music. There will be a free kids zone presented by Louisiana Propane Dealers with games under the Front Street bridge.
You’re invited to all the fun. Visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255 to get more information and the schedule for the three-day celebration, and for participation opportunities for three ticketed events.