Northwestern State’s Rhonda Rube Baird becomes first softball player inducted into Southland Conference Hall of Honor

Rhonda Rube.jpg

Former Northwestern State All-America catcher Rhonda Rube Baird will become the first softball student-athlete or coach inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor, the league’s highest recognition for former competitors and administrators.

Rube Baird is one of three Southland Hall of Honor inductees announced Thursday by conference commissioner Tom Burnett, joining Lamar president Dr. James Simmons and former SLC Coordinator of Volleyball Officials Linda Fletcher, both deceased. They will be enshrined May 22 at the at the annual Southland Honors Dinner and Ceremony at the Westin Stonebriar Hotel in Frisco.

She becomes just the third female student-athlete in the Hall of Honor’s membership, which rises to 50 with the 2018 class. Baird is NSU’s eighth selection, joining track and field’s Brian Brown, LaMark Carter and coach Leon Johnson, football coach Sam Goodwin, women’s basketball coach James Smith, athletics director Tynes Hildebrand and longtime president Dr. Randy Webb.

Rube Baird, who played for the Lady Demons from 1989-92, became NSU softball’s only All-American selection in program history when the Baton Rouge native earned third-team honors as a junior in 1991.

The catcher hit .341 with 44 RBIs and 60 hits that season despite pitchers attempting to work around her (26 walks). She was named the Southland’s Player and Hitter of the Year, honors she won twice in her career.

“Congratulations to Rhonda on this well-deserved honor,” said NSU athletic director Greg Burke. “She truly has been one of the most outstanding athletes in the history of the NSU athletic program, and it is now fitting that she is recognized as one of the best in Southland Conference history.

“I was fortunate to witness most of Rhonda’s career, and she certainly was one of the driving forces behind NSU’s first softball conference title. I always described her style of play as ‘smoothly reckless.’ She was the consummate hard-nosed catcher who literally attacked the ball as a hitter. At the same time, she played in a way that was so self-contained. It was a lethal combination for sure.”

Rube Baird was a four-time All-Southland Conference selection (three first-team honors) and a three-time Louisiana Athletic Director’s Association Player of the Year.

She finished her career with NSU records for hits (215), doubles (45), batting average (.327) and walks (95). Her 45 doubles was a Southland Conference record at the end of her career and placed her 10th in NCAA history.

Rube Baird still remains second in the NSU record books in doubles despite softball becoming a more hitter-friendly sport. A quarter century after her career ended, she is still third all-time in walks and sixth in hits.

The Belaire High product made an immediate impact when she hit a career-best .342 en route to Southland Player and Newcomer of the Year honors as a freshman.

Her teams ushered in NSU’s first golden era of softball under coach Rickey McCalister.

The Lady Demons posted the first 40-win seasons (43-17 in 1990 and 44-18-1 in 1991) in program history with its first conference title in 1991.

Rube also became the program’s first all-region selection in 1990 when she recorded 43 hits and 22 RBIs with 31 walks.

Her No. 27 jersey is one of only two retired in NSU softball history, joining No. 3 Ginger Craig, who played only her senior season (1987) in the Southland.

A member of the SLC’s All-Time Softball Team selected in 2013, Rube Baird is a registered nurse in her hometown of Baton Rouge.

Photo Credit: NSU Athletics