Sept. 24, 2012
Name: Ralph Russo
Graduating Class: `91
Position: CF: '88 - '91
ECC Champions: `90
NCAA Tournament: `90
Paul E. Koch MVP: `91
Hometown: Scotch Plains, N.J.
Current Residence: Lebanon, N.J.
Current Occupation: Plastic & Reconstructive Surgical Consultant - Sientra Corporation
Family Information: Wife - Stacey, Bill - 13, Samantha - 11, Robert - 8
What attracted you to attend Lafayette College?
Although I was a baseball player during my 4 years, my initial recruiting process was as a football player. In fact, my letter of intent was for football. During my visits to many schools I gained a stronger understanding of the advantages of choosing a smaller school with more ideal class sizes. The large group of group of student-athletes was extremely attractive as I was particularly interested in being a part of a strong academic institution that was still focused on athletic achievement and success.
On my recruiting visit I was blown away by how beautiful the campus was. I had not seen anything like it! At that time there were many fraternities and the houses were something to behold. This is when I started to really desire being a Leopard. I began to assess the importance of my hometown being just over an hour from Easton and how much enjoyment my parents would get from their ability to attend regularly to see me play.
At that time multi-sport athletes were much more common but Division I schools were still not in love with the idea of allowing a player to play multiple sports. Lafayette was one of the few schools that were comfortable with my desire to attempt to play football and baseball. Although I was unable to compete at the level as a football player, I was able to immediately have coach Hindelang take notice on the baseball field. Being a starter my freshman year and being able to have an impact immediately really solidified that I had made the right decision.
What do you miss most about Lafayette?
I miss so many aspects of the "Lafayette Experience". I miss the daily interaction with my teammates and fraternity brothers most. Socially, it was such a great experience. I had the opportunity to compete and bond with great people. Many of these individuals I stay in contact with to this day. Social media has really helped in this regard as it is so much easier to stay connected to your friends and their families.
Between your former teammates and coaches, who has made the most impact on your career?
I had many phenomenal teammates and coaches over the years. I know that every one of them has had some influence on me on and off the field. Having to choose one that has had the most impact is difficult but I would have to go with Joe Hindelang.
Joe and I were polar opposites. Joe was a cerebral, relaxed individual who always promoted the idea of baseball being a "game of execution, not emotion". My being a more excitable personality should have had us regularly doing battle. Instead Joe understood my passion for the game and more importantly my passion to win. I admired his calm and ability to teach and I believe he recognized my toughness and willingness to do anything for our team.
He gave me an opportunity and challenged me to take it and I am forever grateful.
What collegiate baseball experiences have been invaluable to your successful career?
My Lafayette baseball experience certainly helped me develop in the areas of leadership, hard work and teamwork. My professional career would not be the same without these opportunities and experiences.
Looking back, what do those seasons mean to you now?
When I reflect upon my seasons as a Leopard I think less about the games played and more about the camaraderie with the guys. We had a great group and accomplished so much.
What was your most memorable moment playing Lafayette baseball?
My favorite "team moment" was the clinching game to win the 1990 East Coast Conference Championship and the NCAA Regional appearance in Mississippi that would follow. It was amazing to be on that stage.
I remember Bob Pogyor & Jeff Antolik's amazing pitching and Bob Spagnolo's key hits. It was really special to have two of my good friends Brian Shevitz and Mark Rowland on either side of me in the outfield. It was a special group. Although much of it is now a bit of a blur, I remember the rush and the feeling of being a champion. It is something you wish everyone could experience at least once.
As for personal moments, I have two:
One would certainly be our defeating Seaton Hall in 1989. I remember they had Mo Vaughn, Craig Biggio and I believe John Valentin on the team. They were nationally ranked and by far the highest ranked team in the Northeast. Late in the game with two outs and the bases loaded I came to the plate. We were down a couple of runs. I managed to square one up and clear the bases with a triple. This was certainly one of the biggest hits of my life.
The other was a game in 1990 when we were fighting towards our league championship. We faced Drexel at home in a double header and needed both games. After winning game 1 we had a tight battle in game 2. I fortunately was able to run down an extra base hit to save a couple of runs, plated 2 with a hit and later made a catch and throw to double up a runner at 1st to end an inning. When I got up again with 2 outs and the winning run at first I was simply trying to keep the line moving and hit it hard. The walk-off triple was a surprise and a thrill but the reaction from my teammates is what I remember most.
Is there one teammate you would love to hear from?
I would love to hear from Bob Spagnolo. After Bob's graduation in '90 we lost touch. He was a great player and better person both fiery on the field and funny in the dugout. I hope he is well and hope to run into him at one of our alumni events.
What advice do you have for Lafayette student athletes?
Enjoy the college experience but take your unique opportunity as a student-athlete seriously. Your time in the classroom and on the field will provide a unique learning opportunity to become a focused and well-rounded individual. Being a student athlete is tough but the ability to balance the two responsibilities will provide you with the interdisciplinary skills to succeed in whatever path you choose.
How did your career progress after you graduated from Lafayette College?
After a failed attempt to chase the baseball dream, I took a position in medical device sales and services and had no idea what I was doing. My career has continued on this path for the last 20 years in the areas of medical sales & sales management. I guess I figured it out?
What do you feel are some of your greatest accomplishments?
Without a doubt my biggest accomplishment has been my family. My wife Stacey and I have three wonderful children and I could not be more proud of my crew.
How are you still involved with baseball? Coaching, playing, umpiring, etc.?
I continue to be involved with both baseball and football as I have gone from years of coaching my oldest son's teams to now helping coach my youngest son. Unfortunately or fortunately, for my soccer playing daughter (you would have to get her opinion), I am just a spectator as I am still trying to understand the game.
I am glad to be getting reconnected to Lafayette Baseball through the alumni events and Coach Kinney. I have missed it and enjoy the opportunity to be a part of the future.