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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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From the Berkshires to Division I Baseball: The Story of Pittsfield’s Austin Rachiele

Austin+Rachiele+22+taking+a+swing+during+the+Trailblazers+annual+spring+break+trip+to+Florida+%28via+Austin+Rachiele%29.
Austin Rachiele ’22 taking a swing during the Trailblazers annual spring break trip to Florida (via Austin Rachiele).

If you ask anyone about either Taconic High School or MCLA baseball, chances are the name Austin Rachiele ‘22 will be brought up, and rightfully so. The left-handed hitting outfielder made his mark representing Berkshire baseball, which included being a part of a high school state championship, a stellar five-year career in a Trailblazer uniform, and the opportunity to represent his hometown of Pittsfield in a Pittsfield Suns uniform for three seasons in the competitive Future Collegiate Baseball League. 

All of this, along with the hardworking, persevering character he’s carried throughout his life, paved the way for his ultimate dream as he is currently playing Division I baseball at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, with aspirations of one day making it to the professional level. But the road to getting there was certainly not an easy feat for him.

Going back to the beginning, Rachiele was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and would first develop his love for baseball at the early age of three with memories of himself and his father out in the backyard, along with attending local games at Waconah Park with his family.

“My dad would always say I’d be holding a baseball, and one day when he put the bat in my hand, I grabbed it like a left-handed hitter and he never wanted to fix it,” he said. “We would practice every day, and I would be waiting for him to get home from work and we’d go out in the backyard, play catch, go across the street and he’d throw me batting practice without an L-screen, and those will always be some fond memories.”

Like most kids, Rachiele would first begin playing organized ball at the tee-ball level, working his way up to rookie league baseball for seven and eight-year-olds. For him, baseball would become his true passion as he transitioned to the Little League level and realized this was what he wanted to do.

It would also be around that time when Rachiele would meet Mike Massery, who is the owner of The Infield baseball facility in Pittsfield, and whom he considers to be his “biggest resource.” To this day, he still goes to him as he continues to perfect his craft.

“[Massery] has been my hitting coach, he’s helped me develop through the years, and he got me into doing coaching lessons,” he said. “The Infield opened up around 2011, so I started spending not only my in-season time there just those couple days a week practices were not enough for me, I just wanted more, so whenever me and my dad could, we’d head down to The Infield and do some lessons with Mike, and I just really started to fall in love with it and it became my personality from there on out.”

Rachiele would continue to develop and take his talents to Taconic High School, also in Pittsfield. He would spend his first two years playing at the junior varsity level and it would be around that time when he would make the transition from the infield to the outfield, and where he has not looked back since. At the same time, however, it would be where he would face adversity with issues going on with his family.

“It was just one thing after another,” he said. “The biggest thing was my parents never had to make me take a season off, they always made sure I was on the field, and I don’t know how they did it, but they kept me on the field, they kept me with all the gear, going to all these away games, so I’m very grateful for that, and I just continued to work hard, and I wanted to prove it to myself and make them proud.”

The hard work through such adversity would pay off for Rachiele once he got the callup to varsity during his junior year, being the only member of his junior varsity team to do so. With 13 seniors on the team at the time, he would not see too much playing time on the field but was a part of Taconic’s 2017 Division I State Championship Season. It would then be his turn to lead in 2018, as he hit over .400 and helped lead the Taconic Thunder back to the championship game. While they would lose, he would take home the Western Massachusetts Tournament Most Valuable Player Award, capping off an outstanding high school career.

Despite the success and what looked to be a surefire opportunity to play at the collegiate level with all of the success, nearly all of the colleges Rachiele reached out to were not able to offer him a spot on their team, and his playing days were looking to be coming to an end. That was, until current MCLA Baseball Head Coach, Mike Gladu, saw something in him that other coaches did not see, and offered him that coveted spot he was looking for.

“I started looking around, and I really didn’t get any hits anywhere in the country,” he said. “I sent probably a dozen emails my entire junior and senior year, and it turns out the only person who wanted to give me a shot pretty much in the country was Mike Gladu, and it was because I played for him in summer ball when I was 14 and he coached a couple games on my travel team when I was in high school, and he offered me to come up for a visit, and I remember sitting in his office and him talking to me and my parents and telling me ‘Here’s the deal. It’s coming down to the wire realistically, and you can come here, get a four-year degree just as good as anywhere else, and you can be an impact player right away.’”

“He’s the only one who gave me a shot to play college ball, so I’m forever grateful for that,” he continued.

In addition to the opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level, Rachiele was also able to be a part of the new biology program at MCLA, which he describes as his passion off the field. Gladu would also stay true to his promise for Rachiele, as he would win the starting right fielder role for the team in his freshmen season. He’d put up a respectable season, batting .265, collecting 36 hits, 12 runs batted in, and stole 14 bases on 15 attempts. 

For most players, those numbers would be good enough. For Rachiele, he knew he wanted to become even better.

“I trained really hard after my freshmen season, and I was definitely grateful for [the success], but I didn’t want to be a .260 hitter for my career, and I didn’t want to be an average guy,” he said. “I wanted to be the guy who gets better and better and better, to the point where I wanted to be so far ahead of the competition that they couldn’t ignore me, so I really focused on getting a little bit bigger, putting on some muscle mass and size, and tweaking some mechanics as there were some flaws that I had to figure out.”

The hard work and dedication to his game looked to be paying off big time for Rachiele, as he would come out of the gate hot at the beginning of his sophomore season as the starting centerfielder. In his first six games, he batted .529, collecting 11 hits, a triple, and smacking his first two collegiate home runs. But just as quickly as it began, it would come all crashing down, as the COVID pandemic would not only cancel the rest of his sophomore season but also his junior season after just two games.

Despite the uncertainty of when he would play again, Rachiele never wavered. He would continue to work hard waiting for his opportunity to shine and make his mark, continuing to train where it all started back at The Infield. He would continue to stay in game shape, playing in the Hudson River League the summer before his junior season, and would play a handful of games for the Pittsfield Suns the summer before his senior season after the team in the Perfect Game League he was originally supposed to play would also get shut down due to COVID. The opportunity in Pittsfield would also serve as a full circle moment for him, as he went from attending games in their home field at Waconah Park, to now becoming a player for the team.

Rachiele sliding into third base after hitting a triple for the Pittsfield Suns of the Future’s Collegiate Baseball League (via Austin Rachiele).

The patience would eventually pay off, however, as Rachiele would finally get the chance to play a full season in his senior year. He would play in 35 games, batting .313 36 hits, six doubles, and five triples. However, he felt he truly was not able to tap into his full potential, as hamstring injuries would hamper him through part of the season.

Despite this though, with the uncertainty of not knowing if he was going to continue playing after the season, nothing was going to stop Rachiele from stepping on that field.

“Going into senior year, I took all of fall and winter thinking ‘man, I’ve got to make this one count, I don’t know if I’m going to come back, I don’t know if I’m going to do a fifth year or a sixth year and all of that,’” he said. “I ran into some injuries that season straining my hamstring…I hit a little above .300, no homers, and a few doubles, and I was not happy with it at all because I knew I was way better than that and I had way more to offer, and that wasn’t going to get me to the next level.”

That spring, Rachiele would graduate with his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a focus in Pre-Medical and was originally planning on playing in the New York Collegiate Baseball League for the upcoming summer. To get ready, he would join the Pittsfield Suns once again on a partial deal to get game time and prepare for what was to come during the summer. It would be there, however, where his rise would start to take form.

“My first at bat, we were playing away against the Nashua Silver Knights, and I hit a home run to left-center, and I had a terrible season the year before in the Future’s League, couldn’t catch up to velocity, didn’t feel like I belonged there,” he said. “In that moment, I was like ‘man, I did get a lot better, I do belong here, lets keep going,’ and I had a couple more hits, a big RBI, and we ended up winning, and we go to the home game, and first at bat I hit a homer to dead-center field over the Waconah Park sign, and I realized I can make this happen.”

Through his play, Rachiele would earn himself a full contract to stay and play for his hometown team the entire summer, which he described as a proud moment knowing that his hard work had finally paid off. Through the rest of the summer, he collected 19 hits in 23 games played, including two doubles, a triple, two homers, and 15 runs batted in.

While ultimately Rachiele would receive a few offers to transfer for his last two years remaining of eligibility, he felt they were not what he was looking for at that time. But the experience of excelling in the Future’s League, which featured some of the top talent from all over the country, made him realize he could not give up on the dream, and made the decision to return to MCLA for his fifth year.

“It was at that point where I realized I really have to get on this,” he said. “No hits in the portal, so one day, I texted Randy Adams ‘23, and asked him if you guys have practice today,” He said. “So I went up, saw [Gladu] and shook his hand and asked him ‘hey, you looking for a centerfielder?’ and I remember he started smiling and told me ‘yep, welcome back,’ so he gave me my captainship back, told all the guys and they were excited, and I knew it was go time, no holding back on this season and wanted to leave it all on that field.”

To make sure he lived up to what he believed in, Rachiele went on a strict regiment, training six days a week and doing everything he could from hitting the weights to practicing his hitting and fielding. This, along with the decision to return for at least one more year, would prove to be more than a good one.

In his fifth and final season dawning the Trailblazer blue and gold, Rachiele put together one of, if not, the greatest individual season in MCLA baseball history. Playing in all of the team’s 38 games, he would lead the entire MASCAC in batting average (.453), home runs (14), hits (63-which tied the MCLA program record), triples (4), total bases (127-which set a new program record), and runs scored (53-which set a new program record). He also set career highs in on-base percentage (.550), slugging percentage (.914), runs batted in (40), walks (28), and stolen bases (17). He also was able to accomplish the rare feat of hitting for the cycle in a game, which no other player in MCLA history before or since has accomplished, and in addition to getting it done with the bat, he also did it with the glove, making numerous highlight catches and playing steady defense in centerfield throughout the entire season 

For his efforts, Rachiele would take home a plethora of awards, including team MVP, MCLA Men’s Athlete of the Year, MASCAC Player of the Year, D3Baseball.com First Team All-Region Honors for Region 2, ABCA/Rawlings NCAA DIII All-Region 2 First Team, Third Team All-American honors from both ABCA/Rawlings and D3baseball.com, NEIBA All-New England First Team, 2023 ABCA NCAA Division III Region 2 All-Defensive Team, and was selected to play in the 2023 NEIBA All-Star Game. 

Upon finishing up his career at MCLA with one more year of eligibility left, Rachiele would return to the Suns, this time on a fully guaranteed contract from start to finish. He would build off of the previous summer, batting .283, 39 hits, 9 doubles, 6 triples, a homer, 27 runs batted in, and stole 17 bases. He would get named a Future’s League All-Star for the first time, and it would be there when an unexpected opportunity would create itself for the next chapter of his baseball career through the help of his current roommate, along with his girlfriend and her family.

“I met my current roommate now, and told me ‘you should look at Siena [College], we got a new coach from Princeton, he’s supposed to be great,’” He said. “I didn’t really have any Division I interest at the time, and I see my girlfriend after the game and she’s like ‘Hey, I was talking to my dad, and he knows the new Siena coach, they’re good friends, they coached at Hudson Valley together and he’s going to send his number.’”

“So we pack up, start to load up the bus, and I check my phone, and sure enough, there’s a text message from Coach Jurczynski from Siena, and I’m all excited knowing it’s an hour away, my family can come see me play Division I ball, and we ended up on a call together,” he continued.

Unlike the first time around in the recruitment process, Rachiele was finally getting the recognition he deserved, and would ultimately choose Siena College on a full scholarship to play in his final year of college eligibility where he currently is today. He has already impressed collecting multiple hits, including hitting for another cycle, in the team’s fall scrimmages and is slotted to be a top-of-the-lineup bat and everyday centerfielder for the team as they continue preparation for the 2024 season.

In addition to helping the team ultimately win games, Rachiele looks to serve the role as a leader both on and off the field for the younger players on the team and help out in any way he can. 

Rachiele at the plate during Sienna’s fall scrimmage game against RPI (via Austin Rachiele).

Looking to build on the foundation he has already set for himself, Rachiele hopes to accomplish his childhood dream of making it to professional baseball, potentially hearing his name called in the upcoming 2024 MLB Draft in July. However, if things do not work out for whatever reason in his baseball career, his backup plan will be to attend medical school to become a doctor.

“It’s my last year on a college field, and I have this great opportunity that I’ve worked hard for and the coaches provided me with,” he said. “I want to continue to prove it to myself, my family, and everyone that supports me and the team. This is the highest level of college baseball being Division I, so if I prove myself at this level, the pro guys they won’t be able to ignore me either, so that’s what I’m hoping for and that is the plan.”

“Hopefully it’s many years down the road after a professional career, but the other thing I would want to do is to go to medical school and become a doctor,” he continued.

Nobody can predict the future, but no matter what happens, Rachiele’s story and baseball career truly are a testament that no matter what obstacles may come and no matter what adversity has to be faced, through hard work, dedication, and believing in yourself, any dream is possible. He certainly has left his mark at MCLA and within the Berkshires, and the story only continues to be written as he embarks on his dream of playing Division I baseball and on to bigger and better things.

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Owen Brown, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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    Lynnmarie ClementsFeb 23, 2024 at 1:04 pm

    Wonderful article about a great athlete! Keep up the great work, Austin.

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