MSU Players Talk About Polk's Announcement

Mississippi State baseball players and an assistant coach express their feeling about the announcement by Ron Polk that he will be retiring at the end of the season.

Senior Andy Wilson

Take us through what happened today.
"We got the field like we were coming to practice. We had a team meeting at 3:50 today. (Student assistant coach) Tyler Bratton gave a letter to us. In it was a cover letter explaining to us what was going on and beneath it was a two and a half page letter that Coach Polk had written before the Ole Miss series. He gave it to Larry Templeton and our new athletic director, Grey Byrne. It explained that he wanted to retire at the end of the season.

"A lot of it had to do with the NCAA. Obviously, he went through a lot this fall trying to fight the NCAA on some issues. And in the letter he also recommended that Coach (Tommy) Raffo take over, which I hope is done and done quickly."

Is that the consensus among the players?
"Yes sir, from what I could tell, I believe it is among us. We hope that Coach Raffo, Coach McNickle, Coach Hedges and Coach Drye will be here next year."

How did it affect the team emotionally?
"It it kind of surreal when you first hear about it because Coach Polk is a legend. Everyone was really silent for about 15 minutes. We were in there with music on and playing ping pong and pool before practice. Then, we got the letter and turned off the radio and sat there for awhile."

How did it affect you personally?
"It hit me that this is it for him. We want to send Coach Polk out on a good note. And I know things haven't started off like we had planned this season, but we have a lot of season to go and want to finish it right."

Did he explained why he decided to go ahead and announce his retirement now?
"Yes, for one, he wants to have a smooth transition. Hopefully, Coach Raffo will take over and we will be able to carry on as business as usual as far as the recruits coming in. And he was concern about the Foster Parent Program, the skyboxes, all the things that have to be taken care of now instead of waiting until the end of the season."

He talked to you guys after you read the letter. What was he like during his talk?
"You could tell that it really .... it was the most emotional that I have seen Coach Polk. You could really see how much he cares about us and how much it means to him to be the head of this program. It's hard to put into words how much he has invested into this program. And it's an honor to have played for him for the last five years. I'm glad I am going to be here for his last year, too."

Senior Justin Pigott

What do you remember from the letter?
"In his letter he said he is tired and the way recruiting is his age is getting in the way. And he actually admitted his age in the letter. For someone that has done this his whole life, to come to that point and say that, it's tough. You want him here, we all want him here. We have a tremendous respect and love for Coach Polk. And he showed the same to us. When you lose your number one guy who has been here for so long and has put Mississippi State on the map, it's kind of strange."

How does it affect you emotionally?
"I don't know. I guess it hasn't set in yet. I don't know...."

Senior John Lalor

Did you grow up a Bulldog fan?
"Yeah. I remember coming here during a baseball game with my youth baseball team. We had one of the team dads who played football here. And he walked us through Shira (Complex) and we got to come out here on the field and meet Coach Polk and watch the game. It's an experience that I will never forget. It will be tough not seeing him in the coach's box."

What are your thoughts about his recommendation that Tommy Raffo be named the next head coach?
"I think it is a great decision. Whatever Coach Polk wants for this program I think is good. He's been here so long and has really built this program up. And I really think he knows what is best for this program. And I really hope they honor his wishes."

How did it affect you emotionally?
"It was tough to see him get choked up because he is a pretty stoic figure. He never gets choked up. It was tough to see that. And in the meeting it was dead quiet. I've never seen us more focused than any other time during my career. Everybody was taking in every word."

How do you think this will affect the team the rest of the season?
"I think we will actually want to get out there and get after it and send Coach Polk out in the best fashion that we can. We want to play the season for him."

Are you happy that you are going out the same time he is?
"Yeah, I'm really happy that I got to play for him my entire career. You always wondered how long he would be around."

Was there one paragraph in the letter that really choked you up?
"Yeah, he talked about how his father passed away at 67 and other family members have died in their mid-60's. And he's in his middle sixties now. So, that kind of got to us."

Junior Chad Crosswhite

How did this affect you?
"It affected me pretty bad. My heart kind of dropped. I love him as a father because he has always been there for me. And I've always wanted to play for him. His legacy of his name is unbelievable. To see him leave is going to be pretty tough because I hate to see it come to an end for him. As it gets closer to the end of the season, that is going to be pretty bad for me because he has done so much for me."

And you still have a year of eligibility left...
"Yeah, that was what I was thinking out there. I am just glad I got to play for him. He has always been very encouraging to me. I respected him from day one."

I know you guys want to win out for him and take him to the College World Series again, but what do you hope the fans do the rest of the season?
"I hope they are very encouraging. And I want the fans to give him the respect that he has given them. Come out, support him and be positive. Right now, it is tough on him."

What will Friday night be like for you guys?
"I will have chill bumps when he gets introduced tomorrow night. It will be pretty amazing because he is Ron Polk."

Mississippi State baseball assistant coach Tommy Raffo, who has played and coached for Ron Polk for almost 20 years, knows the man better than just about anyone. He discusses his feelings about Coach Polk's retirement announcement.

What has the day been like for you?
"It has been an emotional day for everybody involved. Anytime you spend that much time with a man who has meant so much to you and who has taught you so much, it's going to be emotionally. You play so hard and work so hard for a man that you believe in. And now, as a coach and as a person, you realize how much it means to you."

Considering how much he means to you on a personal level, are you happy that you have the opportunity to be here for his final season?
"Yes, because he means so much to me and this place means so much to me. I have Bulldog blood in me and there is a lot of pride involved. Win or lose, the biggest thing is the pride factor. This program has a standard. And the goal is to win a national championship. And we were among eight teams that were in that mix last year. And that is where this program needs to be. That is something that has been instilled through the successes that we have had here and through what Coach Polk has done."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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