Raffo Meets With Fans in Benton

Omaha is the target for AState baseball, Red Wolf baseball coach Tommy Raffo said Thursday night in Benton.

Meeting with fans and supporters at the Saline County Pack Club Raffo noted that after Arkansas State's appearance in the NCAA Tournament the program promptly went 0-15 in post-season games and was having to rebuild tradition.

He noted that AState hasn't made it to the top of the Sun Belt Conference but was getting closer to the goal.

"It's so close we can see it, smell it, taste it," the Red Wolf skipped said.

Raffo noted that the Sun Belt was rated the nation's fifth best baseball conference in 2013. Realignment has changed the line-up in the conference but he stated that he believed the changes would be a wash. Raffo stated that UL Lafayette looked to be the team to beat and was glad the Cajuns would be playing at AState in 2014.

The improvements in AState baseball have helped scheduling and mentioned that northern teams especially like coming to play the Red Wolves because any place without snow on the ground in the early part of the season was like going to Florida for them.

Raffo explained to the crowd the difference in recruiting for head count sports like football and basketball compare to equivalency sports like baseball where only 11.7 scholarships are available and most scholarship players generally receive less than full aid. He said they split the scholarship money about equally between pitchers and fielders. He added that the scholarships funded by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery make it easier to recruit in-state players as they can combine those funds with the partial baseball scholarships.

Local players are big part of the AState baseball team. Raffo noted that 80% of players currently on the Red Wolf roster had either played at Tomlinson Stadium or camped there before coming to Arkansas State.

Raffo opened the evening by asking the crowd of about 65 people to "get their wolves up" showing the Red Wolf hand sign and howling.