Nov. 12, 2009
Innings with Joe Raccuia
By Sean Ryan
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
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.
Inning – Describe some of the field renovations, which will be a
nice complement to your indoor facility that was constructed in
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
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?
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
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
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 )