Mike Rizzo reached a milestone during the 2015-16 season as the head coach of the Whittier College baseball team. The 18-year front man earned his 300th career victory with an 8-7 home victory over SCIAC foe Pomona-Pitzer.
Originally from Pittsfield, MA, he has amassed a 312-398-4 career mark, 191-230 SCIAC record, with eight 20+ win seasons which includes five straight from 2002 through 2006.
Under Rizzo’s guidance, Whittier has had 48 student-athletes named All-SCIAC, 21 garner All West Region honors, five named NCAA All Americans, three ABCA/Rawlings National Gold Glove winners and four Major League draftees. At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, the Poet baseball team received recognition by the ABCA for its excellence in the classroom. Whittier was one of 34 programs in Division III to achieve a team GPA of 3.0 and higher.
Poets drafted during Rizzo’s tenure include:
Thomas Vessella 2006 11th Round Houston Astros
Thomas Phelps 2008 38th Round Baltimore Orioles
Julian Barzilli 2014 31st Round St. Louis Cardinals
Stephen Zavala 2015 37th Round St. Louis Cardinals
In 2014, Julian Barzilli helped lead the Poets to their first ever appearance in the SCIAC Post Season Tournament, led the country in home runs with 17 and was named to the ABCA All American team. Following an outstanding season, Barzilli was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 31st Round of the Major League Amateur Draft.
In 2015, Whittier College was the only NCAA Division III program to have players selected in back-to-back seasons when the St. Louis Cardinals selected senior catcher, Stephen Zavala in the 37th Round. Zavala was outstanding behind the plate for the Poets and won a national ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove for his efforts.
The 2016 season saw the Poets’ recognized once again, as junior Tanner Marcoe won a National Gold Glove as one of the top three defensive outfielders in Division III. Junior Jake Raynaud was chasing the Poet single season hit record (Andrew Vallejo ’12 (69)) and fell just short with 67. Raynaud hit .419-6-42 and was named First Team All-SCIAC and All West Region.
Prior to being named head coach, Rizzo was an assistant under former Poet skipper, Jim Pigott ’80 for 11 seasons.
Rizzo began his collegiate playing career at Western New England College (now Western New England University) in 1983, and in his second season with the Golden Bears was named MVP of the 1984 NAIA District 5 Tournament. In that tournament, Rizzo picked up a save against Southern Maine and a complete game victory in the championship game versus Castleton State. He transferred to Whittier in the fall of 1984 and was twice named All-SCIAC as a Poet. Rizzo still holds the single season record for innings pitched in a season and posted a 17-9 record on the mound for the Poets.
In 1986 he was named the Presidential Scholar Athlete and was also named the team’s MVP. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science. In addition to his duties with the baseball program, he also serves as an Associate Director of Athletics for External Operations, and oversees the Purple & Gold Booster Club.
Mike and his wife Susan ’88, reside in Cypress, CA with their two children, Ryan and Kylie.