Pearl River set to honor one of baseball program’s ‘first families’
POPLARVILLE, Miss.— Who knew a simple hamburger at the old Grill amongst teammates on a recruiting visit would lead to a lifetime of memories for Jay Artigues and his family?
More than 30 years after Artigues first visited Pearl River with high school teammates, the home of the baseball team he starred for and later led to glory will forever have his name.
Pearl River is proud to announce the team’s locker room facility will be known as the Artigues Family Clubhouse.
PRCC will officially unveil the facility’s new name as part of Alumni Day festivities on April 27.
“We are honored to recognize the Artigues family for their everlasting impact on our baseball program,” Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. “Mr. Ronnie Artigues has always provided overwhelming support and Jay was one of the best to ever wear our uniform. This recognition will cement their names into the rich history and tradition of our College.
“That is exactly where they deserve to be.”
As part of the festivities, Jay Artigues will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Pearl River’s 2 p.m. doubleheader against Coahoma at Dub Herring Park.
“I think if you look back at the history of Pearl River baseball, Jay Artigues is one of the first names mentioned. During his time here as coach, he took this program to new heights, including our only World Series berth, a state championship and a No. 1 national ranking,”
Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “Not only did he get it done on the field, but Jay, along with the help of his father, Ronnie, harnessed their passion and love for our program and turned our facility into one of the best in the country at the time.
“The Artigues family left an imprint on the program that will forever stand the test of time. We’re proud to have their name emblazoned on our clubhouse for decades of future Wildcats to appreciate.”
Added Pearl River Athletics Director Jeff Long: “We are proud to have the Artigues name on our campus. Ronnie Artigues played on our first national championship team and was instrumental in helping construct our baseball fieldhouse. Jay was a tremendous player, and later made a huge impact as a coach not only here but statewide. Our baseball league is tremendous today and Jay changed the outlook of baseball in this conference with his organization, recruiting and vision for facilities. This is a great day for all involved.”
It’s appropriate the Wildcats’ clubhouse will bear the Artigues name because Jay and Ronnie were the driving forces behind the structure’s construction immediately after the younger Artigues was hired as baseball coach in 2001.
“The main thing was we needed a locker room, a place where they could change and I knew how important facilities were in recruiting,” Artigues said. “When I played there, we got dressed in Pearl River Hall and walked or drove to the field. It was different. This gave it more of a college feel. I think we were one of the first in the MACJC to get a locker room and clubhouse.
“That kind of spring boarded us to the top.”
After finalizing the plans, Artigues Construction went to work — although Artigues is quick to point out it was more than just a two-man project.
“Mr. Dub Herring had a lot to do with that as did Barry Harper and Dr. (William) Lewis. There are just so many people,” Artigues said. “One person didn’t do that. That’s what makes Pearl River special. There are so many people who helped.”
DECADES IN THE MAKING
The story of the Artigues and Pearl River doesn’t start with Jay Artigues suiting up in the maroon and gold in the late 1980s, but rather two decades earlier when his father, Ronnie Artigues Sr., was a standout on the school’s 1961 National Championship football team.
It was during that time in Poplarville that a true love of PRCC was forged.
“If it’s St. Stanislaus or Pearl River, he doesn’t care what he has to do, he’s going to help. He’s selfless,” Artigues said. “He never wanted any recognition but he’s always been there for both schools. Anything he can do to help that place he will because he loves that place and he’s like me and feels indebted to it. It gave him an opportunity to get an education.
“He had to work his way through and pay for his education. When (former PRCC football coach) Dobie Holden gave him a scholarship, that was big for him.”
START OF A LEGACY
Once on campus, Jay Artigues found his own reasons to love PRCC.
Former coach Jim Nightengale first scouted Artigues and a couple of his American Legion teammates back in Bay St. Louis and was impressed enough to invite them up to Poplarville for a visit.
“Back then it wasn’t like today where you have so much social media pub,” Artigues recently recalled. “It was more of a ‘hey, why don’t y’all come look at it?’ We had a hamburger at The Grill and he said ‘what do y’all think?’ We looked at each other and said ‘heck yeah, we’ll come.’ There wasn’t much fanfare, that’s for sure.”
It didn’t take long for Artigues to earn notoriety. A St. Stanislaus College graduate, Artigues hit .414 in 1988 and followed it up by hitting .416 as a sophomore, earning All-MACJC and All-Region XXIII honors his second season.
“The friends I made there, I’m still in contact with each and every one of them,” Artigues said. “That’s something that will stay with me forever, the memories I made at Pearl River. I lived in Pearl River Hall and the relationships I built there. Coach Nightengale gave me an opportunity to play there and I’m appreciative of him for that. It was a lot of fun. We won a lot of games, but the memories were the best things as a player.”
Artigues signed with Belhaven and didn’t return until the fall of 2001, when he started a four-year tear through the MACJC and school’s record books. In four seasons (2002-05), Artigues compiled a 168-51 overall record. In his first season, the Wildcats set a then-school record with 42 wins and earned the program’s only berth in the JUCO World Series.
The 2004 MACJC Championship squad is one Artigues still thinks about.
“I remember the kids. I keep that picture on my desk. Those were tough, hard-nosed kids who were really hungry for winning,” he said. “They bought into what we were doing and were probably the toughest group of kids I ever coached.”
In his final season, the Wildcats won 46 games and earned a No. 1 ranking in the NJCAA’s Division II poll. By the time Artigues moved on to coach Southeastern Louisiana — where he currently serves as Athletics Director — Pearl River had him hooked.
“Pearl River is very special to me and my family. My dad went there and played on the National Championship football team in 1961. My wife went there and was a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen. It’s just very special to me and my family,” Artigues said. “I’m indebted to Dr. Lewis for giving me the opportunity. I coached a long time but those four years at Pearl River were probably my most enjoyable and memorable.”
Even from Hammond, Louisiana., Artigues, who was inducted into the PRCC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Mississippi Community and Junior College Hall of Fame in 2017, still keeps up with the Wildcats. Just last year during PRCC’s MACJC Championship run, the former Wildcat skipper was living and dying by every pitch.
“I’m really, really proud of what Coach Avalon has done. To see the program come back to where it is now, it means a lot to me,” Artigues said. “When they won the state championship last year, I was on the phone following them and when they got off the bus and dogpiled I was texting the guys. It was awesome. I got chills.”
Now the Artigues will return to Pearl River, where they helped build so much history, for yet another momentous occasion.
Spots are still available for PRCC’s Alumni Day on April 27. Former Wildcats who would like to participate in the day’s activities — including brunch, a home run derby, tour of the program’s upgraded facilities, crawfish lunch and tickets to the doubleheader — are encouraged to RSVP by visiting PRCCBaseballCamps.com and filling out the form.
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