TOMMY RAFFO | HEAD COACH
Tommy Raffo was named head coach of the Red Wolves baseball team on July 1, 2008. He has accumulated a 230-229-1 record during his tenure as the head coach of Arkansas State and earned his 200th win on May 21, 2015 with a 6-1 victory over Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Raffo became the fifth head coach in the history of the A-State baseball program after serving as an assistant coach at Mississippi State from 1994-2008. During his time at Mississippi State, he served as the hitting and outfield coach for a Bulldog program that made three trips to the College World Series. Under his direction, the Bulldogs posted a team batting average of .300 or better in eight of 11 seasons.
A-State Draftees Under Raffo
Now entering his ninth season as head baseball coach at Arkansas State, Raffo has revived the Red Wolves baseball program. He has had 13 players drafted since arriving in 2009 and has sent 14 players play in the minor leagues. The Red Wolves had four players drafted in 2015 to tie the school record for most players drafted in a single MLB draft with the 1995 squad. David Owen was the top draft pick of the class in the 19th round, while Stuart Levy was taken in the 27th round. Chandler Hawkins (33rd round) and Zach George (35th round) were A-State's other two draft picks. Bradley Wallace became the second-highest draft pick in school history when he was taken with the 307th pick in the 10th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014, while Daniel Wright and Logan Uxa were each taken by the Cincinnati Reds in 2013. Jacob Lee became the school's highest draft pick in 2012 when he was taken in the ninth round by the Cleveland Indians.
The 2015 season was a bit of a roller coaster for Arkansas State with the team starting out 14-20 before Raffo took over the offense for the team's final 23 games and saw the team finish strongly with a 13-10 record to end the season at 27-30. A-State won two games in the Sun Belt Conference tournament for the sixth straight season and remains the only SBC school to accomplish that feat.
A-State had some early season success as the team went 7-3 in its first 10 games, including winning two out of three games against No. 7 Louisville, marking the first time the Red Wolves had won a road series against a ranked opponent since taking two of three games against No. 18 Western Kentucky in 2010. A-State capped off those first ten games with a sweep of NCAA Tournament participant Houston Baptist in Houston.
However, the conference season proved to be a tough go with A-State starting out 5-15 in SBC play before rallying to earn the eighth and final seed in the conference tournament by winning seven of its final nine league games. The Red Wolves also had to deal with terrible weather throughout the season as the team had 26 of its 57 games altered in some form or fashion by inclement weather.
Zach George became the team's first All-American in the Raffo era in 2015 and first since Josh Yates in 2007. George led the nation in on-base percentage at .548 and led the conference in batting average (.399), hits (81), walks (52), and doubles (22) to earn ABCA and Louisville Slugger Third-Team All-American honors. He was also a finalist for the Gregg Olson Breakout Player of the Year award.
The Red Wolves experienced a number of “firsts” in 2014 as the program went to its fifth straight Sun Belt Conference tournament and won at least two games in the postseason for the fifth straight season. Raffo guided his squad to a 32-27 overall record and a 18-12 mark in league play, earning the No. 3 seed in the SBC Tournament and advanced to the semifinals for the second straight season.
A-State defeated the second ranked team in the nation (Louisiana-Lafayette) 6-4 at home on March 4, marking the highest ranked opponent the team had ever played and defeated at Tomlinson Stadium. The Red Wolves also set a new attendance record when a crowd of 1,143 was on hand to watch Arkansas State take on Ole Miss on May 13.
This past season also saw several players set career milestones, including David Owen who was named to the Gregg Olson Breakout Player of the Year watch list. Dustin Jones became the school’s all-time leader in games played with 228 and Chandler Hawkins turned a gem in the SBC Tournament with a complete game shutout in an elimination game.
Raffo, who also coaches the corner infielders, helped the Red Wolves' achieve the highest fielding percentage in school history at .974. A-State committed just 57 errors during the season, the second fewest in the Sun Belt Conference.
In 2013 he led A-State to its fourth straight appearance in the Sun Belt Conference tournament and the Red Wolves are the only team to have at least two games in the tournament during that span. Raffo perhaps faced his toughest task in 2013 as the Red Wolves were plagued by injuries and were forced to adjust their lineup throughout the year. After finding form near the end of the regular season, Raffo's squad finished with a 28-31 overall record and a 12-18 mark in conference play.
After a loss to Troy on the first day of the SBC Tournament, A-State bounced back to defeat Western Kentucky and then knocked out the Trojans in an elimination match. Raffo also helped several players reach career milestones, including Ryan Emery who became the school's all-time leader in walks and finished among the top five in career RBIs at the school.
In 2012 he led Arkansas State to a 34-23 record and a 19-9 record in Sun Belt Conference play. A-State finished second overall in the SBC and the 34 victories were the most for any team in the Sun Belt Conference and the most in head coach Tommy Raffo's four seasons. A-State's 34 victories are also the most since winning 35 games in 1997 and the fourth-most in school history.
A-State advanced to the championship game of the SBC Tournament for the first time since 1996. Raffo was named the SBC Coach of the Year, while senior pitcher Jacob Lee earned SBC Pitcher of the Year honors. Closer John Koch and shortstop Dustin Jones were also All-SBC second selections.
Under Raffo's direction, A-State ended the 2011 season with an overall winning record (30-28) for the first time since 2005 and finished above .500 in Sun Belt Conference play (16-14) for the first time since 1998. Arkansas State not only made its first appearance in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament since 2006, but was one victory away from playing in the tournament's championship game. The Red Wolves advanced to the semifinals, enjoying their best run in the tournament since 1996.
In 2010, the Red Wolves finished with second-highest team batting average in school history (.312) and recorded the most hits (647) and third most RBIs (345) in school history.
Raffo led the Red Wolves to a 23-30 record in 2009, and although Arkansas State missed the Sun Belt Conference tournament by one-half game, the team showed a great deal of improvement over the previous season. The Red Wolves won 12 Sun Belt Conference games in Raffo’s first season, up from just eight the year before, and A-State's overall record showed an improvement of three wins over the 2008 season. Arkansas State earned conference victories over Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama and UALR.
The Red Wolves raised their team batting average an impressive 36 points over the previous season, finishing the year with a team average of .296. Five players hit .300 or better, compared to just one in the previous season, with one, sophomore Murray Watts earning All-Conference honors at the conclusion of the season. The Red Wolves were also much more aggressive on the bases in Raffo’s first season, stealing 42 bases to almost double the figure from the previous year.
All-Conference selection Chase Ware helped keep the Red Wolves strong on the mound in 2009, and Ware signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization at the conclusion of the season. As a team, the Red Wolves hit .296, which ranked third all-time in A-State history. Arkansas State belted out 557 hits during the year which was the fifth-most ever for an Arkansas State team. The Red Wolves’ 242 walks was the sixth-most in team history, and A-State's 337 runs and 291 RBIs were both the seventh-most ever at A-State. A-State’s 786 total bases ranked as the ninth-most in school history.
During his 15 seasons at Mississippi State, Raffo served as the recruiting coordinator for the Bulldog baseball program, landing 10 straight recruiting classes ranked in the top 33 nationally by Collegiate Baseball. He coached seven All-America players and four Academic All-Americans. He was named as the 2007 Southeastern Conference Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year, and during his time at MSU, 49 Bulldogs were chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft.
Raffo’s outstanding recruiting at MSU paid dividends for the program as he helped the Bulldogs reach the SEC Tournament 12 times, with two championships to their credit. Mississippi State also made 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament during Raffo’s time with the program, winning five regional titles. The Bulldogs made three appearances in the NCAA Super Regionals and advanced to the College World Series in 1997, 1998 and 2007. Raffo coached one Johnny Bench Award winner, given annually to the top college catcher in the country, and helped seven hitters finish the season in the SEC’s top five batting averages.
As a player, Raffo was co-captain of the 1990 Mississippi State team that advanced to the College World Series. He was a two-time Academic All-American and a three-time Academic All-SEC selection. He was named first-team All-SEC in 1989 and 1990, and in 1990 earned second-team All-America honors from both the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America.
After earning his Bachelors of Business Administration Degree from Mississippi State in 1990, he was chosen by the Miami Miracle with the first pick of the eighth round in the 1990 MLB Draft. While playing in the Reds organization, he was the MVP of the 1991 South Atlantic League All-Star Game, and was Co-Captain of the 1992 Midwest League Champion Cedar Rapid Reds.
A native of Orange Park, Fla., Raffo is married to the former Paula Hawkins of Calhoun City, Miss., and they are the parents of two daughters, Claudia Elizabeth and Anna Winifred and a son, Thomas Hanniford “Ford”, born in July 2007.
Raffo Coaching History