Former softball coach gets honored: Mike Rappl inducted into Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame

By Marshall Haim

Sports Reporter

Mike Rappl’s name is synonymous with Canisius softball. Earlier this month on Nov. 4, the former Canisius softball coach was one of eight inductees into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. The Class of 2015 was introduced during a dinner at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in Downtown Buffalo.

“That was probably the most awesome thing ever,” Coach Rappl said about being inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. “You’re in there with your Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres and all the greats from the area. To be inducted in some kind of hall that has those people is awesome.”

Rappl, now a member of four hall of fames, was first inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at his alma mater, St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster, New York, during the summer of 2005. Two years after his induction at his alma mater, he became a member of the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame. Then, in 2009, Rappl was enshrined into the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame.

As the coach of the Griffins’ softball team for 35 years since its initiation in 1980, Rappl was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year seven times. Along with that honor, he won 13 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season titles. Out of his 35 seasons, his teams won 12 MAAC tournament titles and appeared in the NCAA Division I Softball tournament 11 times. In his years at Canisius, he finished with a career record of 831-526-2, for a .612 winning percentage. In the conference alone, he went 330-124, a .727 winning percentage. With his 831 wins, Rappl ranks 37th in the NCAA’s history.

“I never won a game in my life, the kids won the games,” Rappl humbly stated about his plethora of accolades. “It’s because we had good people committed to what we were doing, they committed to the system, and they worked hard.”

With Rappl’s induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, he is now the 24th person with some form of connection with Canisius to be inducted in the Hall of Fame throughout its 25-year history. Out of the 43 members on the Board of Directors, only two represent Canisius College. John Maddock, one of three Vice-Presidents for the Hall of Fame, is the Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs at Canisius. The other board of director member, who just joined this past year, is Jude Russo Caserta. Caserta is the Assistant Athletic Director for Business Operations.

“I think it’s a fantastic validation of what goes on here,” Caserta said about Rappl’s induction and representing the college. “It has enormous importance for the school. Anytime anybody goes through the hall, they’ll see his bio and see the things that he has accomplished here and with others that have gone before him. It’s an impressive thing.”

Rappl is the 12th person to be in both the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He joins famous Griffins like, all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball history at Canisius, Ray Hall, and former long-time athletic director, Don Colpoys. When Rappl was inducted into the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, he was the 12th member of the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame representing the softball program. There are now 18 representatives from the program dating back to last year’s induction.

Even though Rappl is no longer a coach at Canisius, he still is heavily active within the softball community in Western New York. He currently offers hitting lessons at Softball Central, a softball-only training facility in Cheektowaga, New York. Softball Central is the only facility in Western New York that is solely dedicated to softball. Along with the hitting lessons, he continually offers clinics to help teach younger players ways to improve their game.

“I like to give back. The game was good to me,” Coach Rappl stated about still being involved in softball. “Being involved with the game so long, it went so fast just because we kept working at it.”

Ater Rappl’s 35-year tenure with the softball program at Canisius he can’t seem to get enough of the coaching and teaching aspect of softball. Generally, those who retire from the game want to find their way away from it and not be as involved as they used to be, but not in Rappl’s case.

“It’s a part of his blood, it’s in his DNA,” Caserta said of Rappl’s dedication before and after his retirement. “He’s not a sit at home, hangout, kind of guy. He’s just an active guy and I wouldn’t expect anything different in his ‘retirement’ because he will never be away from the game.”

Since Rappl’s retirement following the 2014 season, he handed the coaching torch onto Kim Griffin, who once was a graduate assistant under Rappl. In Griffin’s first season as the head coach, her team went 26-19 overall, and 15-5 in the MAAC, tying for first place, with the Fairfield Stags. Even though Canisius lost in their first playoff game to the Monmouth Hawks, the eventual runner-up to the Stags, Coach Griffin began her first year with success, just like the many Rappl had.

“I knew they were going to be good,” Coach Rappl laughed when talking about last year’s team. “They had two good freshman pitchers coming in. You have to have the horses on the mound. If you don’t have them pitching, you won’t be as effective.”

With Griffin coming into her second season as the coach for the Griffs, all eyes are on her to see what impact Canisius will make within the MAAC. Coach Griffin has been around Rappl for multiple years and has nothing but full faith in her.

“Having two good pitchers having committed to us, and Kim [Griffin] knew the game and she worked hard at it,” Rappl stated about his successor. “She knows the game, has a lot of contacts, and she was ready.  If this team stays healthy, they could be very good.”
Rappl’s time as the head coach of the softball program may be over, but the accolades that he has amassed over his long tenure with the program instills that it will be quite tough to beat the records that he has made at Canisius. Not only will his records will be tough to match, so will the memories that were made throughout his 35 years with the Canisius softball program.

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