Nov. 12, 2009


Nine Innings with Joe Raccuia

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder


Joe Raccuia is entering his third season as head coach at his alma mater, Radford. The Highlanders were 26-24 overall this past season, including 16-9 in the Big South Conference. RU finished fourth in the league and registered the second-highest number of conference wins.


A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Raccuia graduated from Radford in 1995 with a degree in social science. He was a captain for the Highlanders during his senior season.


Radford University Baseball Field is undergoing renovations this fall. A new natural field surface and renovated dugouts highlight the project. The improvements are expected to be completed prior to the start of the 2010 season.


Raccuia recently took time to answer our questions on Radford baseball.


First Inning – Renovations at your home field have left you without a field for the fall. How have you adapted? How was playing the World Series on a high school field?

We have adapted fine. It actually has not been an issue. The high school field has been a savior for us. Anytime you are renovating…you should be open to sacrifice because the reward is worth it. The dimensions of the field are actually normal, so I do not think it played much of a factor during the World Series.

Second Inning – Describe some of the field renovations, which will be a nice complement to your indoor facility that was constructed in 2007.

Carolina Green has come in and done a complete renovation of the playing surface. Everything from drainage, irrigation, new sub surface, field turf, sod and laser grade has been done. Also, we are putting in new dugouts. When you add the new indoor and the new outdoor cages, I believe we are slowly but surely catching up. All the facility improvements since 2007 have been focused primarily on player development.

Third Inning – What was it like returning to campus nearly 15 years after playing baseball at Radford? Had the place changed a lot?
The campus had changed some, but the athletic facilities had not. Actually the facility was in worse shape than when I was playing here. The weight room was in the basement of a dorm, the academic center was a dungeon and the team hit inside in an abandoned K-Mart. I am excited to say that in two years everything has changed in regards to the facilities.

Fourth Inning – Had you watched the program from afar while you were at Marist and
Alabama? And how early did thoughts of returning enter your mind?
I always followed the program. I had not thought about returning until I received a phone call from Dave Braine, the former Athletic Director at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. He was working closely with President Kyle on upgrading athletics at Radford. I really had no interest in coming back to RU until I saw the huge commitment the President was going to make to me and my staff.

Fifth Inning – The Highlanders won 32 games total in the three seasons before you  arrived, and in two years, you've led RU to 50 wins. What has contributed to the turnaround?
This can be a real long answer but I will try and be quick. It all stems off the openness to change by the players that were in the program. They wanted to win, they were sick of losing and the coaching staff came in with a program that showed them ways to be successful even if we were not the most talented group. I believe they became excited to represent our baseball program. I would be remiss not to mention the work that [assistant coach] Brian [Anderson] and [assistant coach] Allen [Rice] put into the daily grind to make those players better daily.

Sixth Inning – The university has stepped up in backing baseball, from coaches' salaries to new facilities. How does that commitment help you and your staff recruit?

The commitment from President Kyle and Robert Lineburg has given us every opportunity to be successful. We now are beginning to have the resources to compete with other teams in our league and region. Everything has changed in this program. We now have 11.7 [scholarships], a full coaching staff, new facilities, etc.  I keep talking about this stuff because it is an unbelievable commitment from where we were three short years ago.

Seventh Inning – Just how good a hitter was Alex Gregory, who batted over .400 each of the final three years of his career?
I am not sure how to answer it. He and [North Carolina’s] Dustin Ackley were the only guys to hit .400 in each of the past three seasons. He was a great hitter, with oppo power and hit better against better competition. He was a mature hitter with a great feel with what he can do. Not many college hitters understand their own weaknesses, which is actually what makes big leaguers most successful, and Alex had that.

Eighth Inning – You’ve coached some great pitchers - including new Marist coach Chris Tracz - and played against others. Of the pitchers you faced or coached, who would make up your starting rotation (5) and closer (1)?
What a difficult question. How about if I only go with the guys I had a chance to coach?
This will be in no particular order.
Chris Tracz - Marist
Adam Belicic - GW
Stacen Gant - George Mason
Tommy Hunter - Alabama
Wade Leblanc - Alabama
Davis Robertson - Alabama

Ninth Inning – How do the Highlanders keep improving and making more noise in the Big South?

We are going to stick with plan that has gotten us better each year. We are going to continue to recruit the players necessary to take us to the next level. We are going to make player development a focal point in our program, and we are going to continue to find the private funds to help us continue to improve our facilities.

Extra Inning – What college baseball stadium that you've played or coached in is  your favorite?
It is a toss-up between Arkansas or the old Alex Box (LSU).


(photos courtesy of Radford Athletic Communications and Sideline Sports Photography )