February 4, 2008 Rotogram


Today, we welcome Ben Griffith, Starkville City Planner to tell us what’s going on in planning for our community’s future growth and development.


Phil Hardwick of the Stennis Institute for Government at MSU, will be our guest next Monday. He  will discuss economic trends.

We will also welcome Kyle Frazier, the MSU graduate student who is the 2008 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar from District 6820.


Attendance:. There were 129 Rotarians  (90  active, 36 exempt, and 1 honorary) present, and 46 active, 19 exempt, and 8 honorary members missing.

Invocation and Pledge: Julia Hodges.

Guests and Visitors : Visiting Rotarian was Bill Overstreet of West Point. Guests included Bill Ford of Briar Jones; Brian Wilson and  John Rounsaville of Ernie George; Keith Winfield of Steve Taylor; Kelly Russell of Jim Ormon; Scott Dodd of Stu Vance; and club guests Maryna Melnik and Negrita Caicedo (RYE students) and Skip Descant (Columbus Commercial Dispatch).

First Timer: Recognized for attending his first meeting as a member of Starkville Rotary Club was Dennis Truax. Sponsored by Carey Hardin, Dennis is Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Mississippi State.

Meeting Notes: President Ned Browning announced that the Spring Banquet Committee will meet following today’s meeting.  The Banquet will be held Monday evening, March 3, and will be the official meeting for the week. He also announced that the District Conference, which we will host, will be April 17-19

Sign Up for the Rodeo.  Loren Zimmerman reported that everything is in order for the second annual Rotary  Rodeo at the Horse Park and workers are needed for both Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 15 and 16). Sign up to help with the rodeo, our only major fund raising activity.

Rotary Minute: Nominations for the annual Rotary awards are due. Ed Clynch called for nominations for Rotarian of the Year, Rookie of the Year (member less than 5 years), and Service Above Self Awards for distinguished efforts in Rotary’s Four Avenues of Service.

Nominations are also due for Paul Harris Community Service Awards – these  recognize non-Rotarians who have demonstrated Service Above Self in serving our community.

Turn in nominations to Ed today or next week or email them to Ed at ejc1@ps.msstate.edu.


Tommy Raffo  is no stranger to local baseball fans.  A two-time All-American in both baseball and academics during his playing days (1987-1990), the Florida native returned to Mississippi State as assistant coach in 1994 after playing four seasons in the minor leagues. In introducing Tommy, Dave Boles said “he’s part of the legend!”

“It’s good to come back and visit with you while we’re riding a high after the football victory in the Liberty Bowl and two wins last week over Ole Miss,” Raffo said. Using a PowerPoint presentation, he looked back at the 2007 season before discussing the 2008 team and season.

“Our crowds last year were outstanding,” he said. “Our total attendance of 367,381 set a school record for Dudy Noble Field. In game 1 of the NCAA super-regional we set an NCAA record at 12,625. In game 2, we bettered that when 13,720 fans showed up.” Average attendance at home games in 2007 was 6,939.

It was the eighth time the MSU program has made it to the NCAA College World Series. Ed Easley won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s best catcher. Raffo said Easely was one of six members of last year’s team drafted by the pros.

Raffo said this year’s baseball camp program has been highly successful. Attendance at winter camp hit the 750 mark. He thinks highly of the father-son camp, which garnered two sold-out sessions, because it results in bonding and strengthening father-son relationships. Summer camps had a total attendance of 1,218. “Camps are a great recruitment tool,” the coach pointed out. “Sixteen of our current players are former campers.”

The Dugout Club has topped 900 members. One of the current projects of the Dugout Club is to get new field  tarps for Dudy Noble.

But one thing that ranks the Mississippi State Bulldogs far ahead of other teams is scholarship. This year’s team GPA hit 3.23, the program’s best ever and highest of any male sport on campus. Seven players made a perfect 4.0 and 29 of the 42 rostered players made a 3.0 or better. To date, 243 Bulldogs have made the all-SEC Academic Honor Roll.  Second place Vanderbilt isn’t even close, Raffo said, pointing out that this is a reflection of the quality of players Ron Polk and his coaches recruit.

There are 29 returning and 13 new players on the 2008 roster. Among the five who graduated were four of the team’s strongest pitchers. “We lost the best.”  But he’s extremely high on six Fall signees, five of them pitchers.

Caleb Reed is a right handed pitcher who was a multi-sport standout at Bayou Academy. He’s also a good hitter, compiling a three-season career batting average of .514.

Devin Jones is another right-handed pitcher from Eupora.  A second-team all-stater last year, he had a 5-2 win-loss record and a 2.5 ERA while hitting .481. He played summer league baseball with the Cincy Flames in Ohio.

Tyler Johnson, from Trussville, Alabama, is a right-hander with a 14-4 three-season win-loss record.

Two of the new players are lefties. Drew Hayes is a  two-time all-stater from Homewood, Alabama.

Nick Routt played his baseball at St. John High School is Silver Springs, Maryland.

The sixth signee is Frankie Rawdow from McKeel Academy, Florida. A talented shortstop, he was named a 2008 Pre-Season Under Armour All-American.

Coach Raffo then ran down the list of returning players, listing their experience, strengths, and positions.

He’s especially keen on Brandon Turner, who was last year’s best hitter with a .399 average and who was named a Freshman All-American. The middle-infielder has been named to the National Baseball Writers Association pre-season All-America second team.

Right-handed pitcher Aaron Weatherford was also named to the Baseball Writers pre-season All-America second team. Other returning players mentioned were pitchers John Lolar, Chad Crosswhite,  and Justin Pigott (co-captain)

“This year we’ll play 31 home games and 25 on the road. Twenty-two of the 56 games will be against teams in last year’s NCAA field,” Rappo said. The Bulldogs will open the season at North Florida. The home opener is against UAB February 26, followed by a string of 13 games at Dudy Noble, including the Cadence Bank Classic with Baylor March 7-9.

In the SEC, Raffo said  you have to be able to score a lot of runs to win games. He said that when the Bulldogs score 7 runs or more they have a winning percentage of .897. “So don’t get excited when we score two or three runs in the early innings.”

It was a most interesting program, even for those who are not hard-shelled baseball fans. We wish the Diamond Dawgs success in the upcoming season.


The Board of Directors has accepted with regret the resignations of two Rotarians – Jim Long and Jack Wallace. Jim has been a member since 1985; Jack became a member in 2003. Both are Paul Harris Fellows.
Terry Thomas has been granted a medical leave of absence through May 31.


Last year’s RYE student, Marie, sends her greetings from France, where she is finishing high school specializing in mechanical and electronic engineering.

“I miss y’all a lot. I miss my life in Starkville and I can’t wait until July when I come back. My family joins me to wish you all a great new year full of happiness, health, and love.  Love, Marie.”  Apparently, she already has plans to pay us a visit in summer.

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