Concordia’s king of the hill

Star pitcher Andre Lagarde is almost unhittable when he’s on the mound.

Every starting rotation needs a go-to pitcher: a dominating presence on the mound, with an arsenal that can deliver a gem when called upon. For the Concordia Stingers baseball team, that man is veteran pitcher Andre Lagarde. Armed with a devastating fastball, Lagarde is Concordia’s ace.

Entering his fifth year with the Stingers, Lagarde’s most recent victory came at the expense of the McGill Redmen, at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park in Côte-Saint-Luc on Sept. 23. The southpaw fired a stat line of five innings pitched, two hits given up, zero earned runs, six walks and six strikeouts. Numbers that good are enough to give any team a sure-fire win. Lagarde’s advantage on the diamond is not hard to spot. His velocity is a cut above and it is an asset that his long-time head coach, Howard Schwartz, has had the privilege to watch.

“The guy throws gas,” said Schwartz, recalling his first encounter with Lagarde. “I watched him throw and noticed he had very tight mechanics.”

Schwartz’s first piece of coaching advice to Lagarde had nothing to do with how he threw the baseball, which can reach up to with 90 miles per hour on the radar gun. Lagarde’s natural talent would evolve over his first year under the watchful eye of Schwartz.

“I told him that he needed to breathe. Relax. Mental focus,” said Schwartz.

Lagarde’s emergence as a force on the mound is only half his story. Concordia’s ace is also a solid contributor at the plate and his speed is a catcher’s nightmare when running the base paths. When he’s not on the mound, he’s playing stellar defense in center field and putting that arm to use. Lagarde forces opposing runners to think twice about scoring an easy run from second base.

“He’s a joy to watch play,” said Schwartz. “He’s a special character. He’s funny, and a bit of a loose cannon.”

His value to the team goes beyond statistics, however. Schwartz wasn’t shy or hesitant about what Lagarde means to the Stingers.

“He’s our backbone, our captain. He’s a role model and he respects the game.”

Like all players, Lagarde has aspects of his game that he needs to improve on. A starting pitcher needs to be composed even in the tightest moments.

“He needs to control his intensity,” said Schwartz.

Lagarde sometimes lets that fire emerge after striking out or giving up a walk, but it is the nature of a true athlete who is immersed in his passion. That flash of self-annoyance comes from the same place that his respect for the game is rooted: a sincere love of baseball and his team. Any doubters need only ask to see his jersey number tattooed on his ribcage in Concordia colours.

Drawing comparisons wouldn’t be quite fair. Lagarde, as you can tell, is unique. You can spot him a mile away by his six-foot-three, 210-pound frame. Coach Schwartz likened Lagarde’s work ethic and the respect he earned from his teammates to that of Derek Jeter. As for his untouchable fastball?

“Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson,” said Schwartz.

Lagarde’s respect for the game doesn’t come without a hint of swagger. After shutting down McGill’s batters for an afternoon, Lagarde couldn’t help but admire his work.

“I gave them six free base runners and they couldn’t score a single earned run off of me.”

Lagarde is just as competitive off the baseball diamond as he is on it. Having graduated last year with a Bachelor’s in Statistics with a 3.40 GPA, Lagarde’s joy of learning led him to enroll in further classes this fall.

Schwartz realized that his star pupil, now in his final season as a varsity athlete, will have to move on.

“He’ll be one of the players that will be sorely missed,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz noted that he never forgets anyone he coaches, but that Lagarde has had such an impact on the Stingers, forgetting him would be impossible.

There’s a star in our midst who tosses gems on the regular. He is one shining reason, out of many, to check out a Stingers game. Their exciting brand of baseball is only amplified when Lagarde is mowing down batters with overwhelming efficacy.

Concordia’s next game is on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to McGill to square off against the Redmen.

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