Racusin, Zach Racusin, baseball
Zach Racusin (Photo provided by Gateway Grizzlies)

Zach Racusin’s baseball journey epitomizes perseverance

Hailing from Mendham, New Jersey, Zach Racusin attended Gil St. Bernard's School in Gladstone, and then did a post-grad year at Salisbury School, where he graduated in 2012.

In 2011, Racusin was the team captain of the Gil St. Bernard's baseball team. He was named to the New Jersey All-State Prep Team twice and earned First Team All-Skylands Conference honors from 2009-11. While at Salisbury School, Racusin earned the First Team All-New England.

A multi-sport athlete, Racusin played baseball as well as ran track and field. He always placed a significant emphasis on strength and conditioning to keep in top shape.

"I trained in the off-season," Racusin explained to Jersey Sporting News. "I was running and sprinting in the 4x4 and 4x2 and relay. I was still hitting three to four times a week, as well as long tossing and lifting weights. Baseball was my priority; hitting a baseball is one of the most specialized skills that you could have in sports."

Once Racusin reached college, he attended several schools, including Emory University, The Community College of Baltimore County, Marist College, and Georgetown University. He completed an Associate of Arts degree from The Community College of Baltimore County, a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Marist College, and a Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University.

Racusin's quest to continue his career on the baseball diamond took a step backward in his freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, as he had to redshirt due to an injury. Racusin moved on to Community College of Baltimore, where he rebounded to be named First-Team All-Region and received NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Academic All-American honors.

In addition, Racusin played in the Cal Ripken league for the Silver-Spring Thunderbolts. Furthermore, Racusin transferred to Marist College, earning a degree in American Studies, hitting .290 in his junior year and making 50 starts in his senior year.

Racusin finished up at Georgetown University, where he capitalized on his opportunity, hitting in 14 straight games, the longest on the team for the Hoyas, that led to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll.

"I went to three different schools and was fortunate to play in every game," Racusin stated. "It was not the path I drew up necessarily going from one to another. I was recruited as a two-way guy at Emory, got hurt there, and was able to get the year back as a medical redshirt. I didn't want to be a pitcher only and wanted to be either a two-way guy or just a positional player so I could play every day."

JUCO Ball Was Best Decision For Zach Racusin

"I left and went to a JUCO (Junior College), and that was an excellent decision because that ended up affording me a bunch of options and I played well. I got my associate degree and was an Academic All-American. Once at Marist, I enjoyed my time there for two years and graduated."

Summer Ball Led to Georgetown

"I played in the Cal Ripken collegiate league in the DC area in 2015 and 2016 and those summers I was able to get to know a lot of Georgetown (University) guys. I got my master's degree from there and had a year of eligibility left and was one of the top hitters in batting average and led the region in hits and bunch of other statistics."

After graduating from Georgetown University, Racusin's first professional baseball experience occurred with playing for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League. Racusin moved on to play in the Frontier League and was splitting time between two teams, the Chicago Dogs and Lake Erie Crushers.

During the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, Racusin played in the All-American Baseball Challenge for the Rockland Boulders. Last year, he returned to play for Chicago and Lake Erie.

This season, Racusin came full circle, playing in the Atlantic League and starting in Long Island, moving onto Staten Island and finally York. Racusin then played for the Gary Southshore Railcats in the American Association.

Racusin returned to the Frontier League, playing for the Gateway Grizzlies. During the 2022 season, Racusin hit .351 with five home runs and 33 RBI, scored 29 runs, belted out 68 hits, stole 11 bases, and walked 39 times.

"I feel very blessed and fortunate to have continued to be given these opportunities," Racusin described. "I've also worked hard throughout my career to produce and be resilient. If you want to play minor league baseball, you'll have to be resilient, face adversity, and get bad breaks."

"Staying persistent, working and training hard, and I've been fortunate also to expand my networks by being able to play with so many different people. I sit back sometimes and just marvel at the fact I can't believe playing with so many different guys in a different part of the country and walks of life. We're all united in this pursuit and appreciation of baseball, and it's an extraordinary thing to appreciate."

"I hope people continue to appreciate how difficult and skilled minor league baseball players are. It's not an apprenticeship; these guys are professionals, highly skilled and successful at their craft and in the top 1% in the world. No matter where you go, what team you play for, and which of these leagues, you realize you are part of an elite group. There's a lot of respect amongst my teammates and competitors. It's not easy to get to this level and stick at it, and something I take away from it."

"Gateway has been a perfect place so far; this year has been pretty crazy between York, Staten Island, and Gary. It's been a year of resets and getting traded from York to Staten Island and playing well there (Staten Island) and letting me go. It's been refreshing to play in a place that loves baseball, and St. Louis is a great baseball town and market."

On how he manages to keep his focus and perform despite so many changes, Racusin said, "It's really just trying to go out there on a daily basis and putting my best effort out there. This product I'm showing right now is a result of a lot of hard work."

When mentioning Gateway's success this season on this field, Racusin primarily refers to the leadership and experience of manager Steve Brook, assistant/hitting coach Clint Freeman and pitching coach Nick Kennedy.

"I've gotten to know Steve (Brook) over the years and played against Steve in Lake Erie in 2018 and 2019 when he was the manager in River City (Rascals) and when the Boulders released me after 2020 when I got traded there. I hit .475 for them during the COVID year and was immediately released at the end of the season. Steve signed me to go to Ottawa (Titans), but the league didn't allow Canadian teams to play."

"Nick Kennedy is the pitching coach but the reliever on the staff; Clint Freeman is a de facto hitting coach even though he's our first baseman, and they have a lot of experience. I've been around and played in this league a lot and professional baseball, but they just let me go out and allow me to do my thing, and that's also very refreshing, and I think that's best. The best environment for me to be successful, and we got a tightly knit team this year and do a pretty good job communicating within and helping each other out.

Racusin savors playing in a spectacular ballpark in GCS Credit Union Park, which has a seating capacity of almost 8000 thousand fans. "It's a magnificent ballpark; I think it's nice about the Frontier League: pretty much every team is in a major media market, and we're 15 minutes away from downtown St. Louis."

"It's minor league baseball but a baseball town with St. Louis (Cardinals) fan base. I've been fortunate to play in many places; Chicago, Cleveland, New York Metro, and the Midwest love their baseball and take it very seriously. We have an excellent indoor facility for hitting, and the team takes good care of us and a professional place to play."

RaxHax Baseball

During the off-season, there is no time to rest for Racusin as he maintains his strength and conditioning as well as his role as Owner & Director of Player Development of RaxHax Baseball + Softball Academy in Randolph, New Jersey.

"I'm in a unique position because in addition to playing professional baseball I also own and operate my own baseball training academy in Morris County, New Jersey," Racusin explained. "This is my sixth season playing professional baseball, there is preparation and focus that is needed to go into preparing for a long season."

"Whether you're a high school, college, or professional, you're earning good results in July and August, but the work you put in December, January and February. We have a group of pro guys that train with me, and I've worked with many pro hitters from a coaching and instructional standpoint. We also have pitching and strength and conditioning and a gym."

"I owned and started this business in 2017, develop and coordinate all our training, strength and conditioning programs, video analysis database for our athletes and it's really good for the player because you teach and try to help people understand their game. The more you understand how you can improve your own abilities and skill sets."

"We have had a bunch of players come through and we've had over 45 guys since 2017 move on to play college baseball that I've trained with us and a lot of Division I scholarship guys so I'm proud of that. We have a really good staff, Liam McArthur who was with Empire State and now Ottawa instructed with us and trained with me over the off-season."

"One of the greatest strengths with my business is integrating cutting-edge analysis and technology. Everything we do in the training facility is reported and assessed with video. On one end, we're measuring, quantifying, recording, and checking your progress over time."

"Hitting a baseball and throwing baseball are very technical and you have to feel and understand how to read and dissect your opponent and understand the nature of the game. To help your technical progress from the gym and show up in a competitive atmosphere you need both sides and need the feel from the human element but the data and feedback."

"We do a really good job of helping guys picking what they need and some need different things to unlock to happen and elevate their game. When you have the right people combining both of those things you can get some really special results."

When it comes to playing the game of baseball for so long and having the passion, Racusin says there are certain tendencies to succeed in the sport.

"It's really an individual sports in the context of a team environment that makes it special," he described. It's very much one versus nine or 12 with the umpires. You can influence a guy at bat behind you, a pitching staff that keeps runs off the board that can impact how you play on defense."

"It's also a game of failure and no other sport where you're expecting to fail as much as you will in baseball. I think it's a struggle and challenge but it's a unique reward you to do figure out the mental side of it and you do understand the mental process needs to be."

"It's brutal but rewarding all in one when you understand how to deal with that failure on a nightly basis and separates the good from the great players and elite. Things change when you face a guy one time and do a certain way and that might not be the way next time and you have to continue to read the environment and go from there."

Most important to Racusin during this athletic journey has been the unwavering support from his family, "My family is my biggest supporter," he stated. "I have an older brother and sister, and all of them live in New Jersey with their families, and they love baseball. My Dad grew up in Queens and saw Shea Stadium built and was a diehard Mets fan, and going to games with him and my family and a significant role in why I have stuck in the game for so long as I have and why I love the game as much as I do."

In closing, Zach Racusin offered this advice for younger athletes and kids playing sports and trying to succeed in baseball, "You need to be able to deal with adversity and stay resilient in the face of what at times be challenging struggles and that's life and baseball. You will create success by having an understanding of your process that makes you successful and get that process if you put work in the off-season."

"Your prep work is one of the many basis and foundations to why I started RaxHax, and I'm proud to help guys do that. People are looking for a step-up in strength and conditioning and their training, and we're always available and happy to help. Fighting through adversity, staying resilient, and having confidence as a result of the hard work you put in will help you be successful."

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