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The senior outfielder returned to the Hokies after not being selected in last year's Major League Baseball draft and regained his 2011 form.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech senior outfielder Andrew Rash adjusts his hat prior to taking the field for one of his final regular-season home games last week.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech’s Andrew Rash (20) heads to second base for a double against Wake Forest. Rash is batting .327 this season, with nine homers and a team-high 56 RBIs.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Most ACC baseball players spend the months between school years in a summer league, honing their craft while trying to impress pro scouts.
Andrew Rash spent last summer playing golf.
The Virginia Tech outfielder was upset with his subpar junior season and was disappointed that he had been bypassed in the major league draft. So instead of spending a second straight summer in the Cape Cod League, the nation’s most prestigious NCAA-sanctioned summer circuit, Rash headed home to Anderson, S.C.
“I just wanted to get away from baseball, with the year I had, and just relax and enjoy the summer,” said Rash, a fifth-year senior who starts in right field for the Hokies. “When you get let down [by the draft] like that, it hurts because you put so much time and effort into something and then a dream doesn’t come true.”
Rash lifted weights at a gym early in the morning before heading to work at a sporting goods store. After work, the former All-ACC pick went to the golf course.
“It was a good summer. It brought things back into perspective with how lucky I am to be here and there’s no need to put pressure on yourself,” he said. “I got away from baseball and came back with a fresh start, a clean mind.”
But he spent part of the summer wondering whether or not he would be able to return to Tech.
Rash had expected to be chosen in the major league draft last June and had told coach Pete Hughes that if picked, he would turn pro. So Hughes did not set aside scholarship money for Rash for his senior season.
After Rash was ignored in last year’s draft, he didn’t know if Hughes would be able to free up some scholarship money for him. He contemplated transferring, although he didn’t know if any other program would have scholarship money available for him, either. He thought about giving up baseball altogether.
Last July, he got some good news from Hughes. A recruit had opted to turn pro, so there would be scholarship money for Rash after all.
“Luckily, I’m back here,” he said.
His return has been beneficial to the 21st-ranked Hokies (35-19). Rash is batting .327 with nine homers and a team-high 56 RBIs. He is tied for fifth in the ACC in both homers and RBIs and ranks fourth in doubles (20). He hit .545 in a series against Virginia last month, helping Tech win two of those three games.
“There’s a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he said. “Last year, I knew I had to put up huge numbers for us. … This year, I had a great supporting cast.”
He hit the 40th homer of his Tech career last week, becoming the first Hokie to reach that milestone in 24 years.
Rash and Tech’s other seniors were honored last Saturday in a ceremony at English Field before their game with Wake Forest was rained out. Rash was escorted onto the field by his mother, Frances Rash.
Rash’s father, Alan, died of prostate cancer when Rash was just 5 years old.
“I’ve got some memories of us going fishing and working in the yard,” said Rash, who has two older sisters. “You definitely miss [having a father] because you don’t have that other guy to be like, ‘Hey, Pops, let’s go shoot basketball,’ or ‘Let’s go play in the yard.’ If I wanted to go hit or if I wanted to go throw, I had to do that stuff on my own. I’d throw the baseball against the side of the house and catch it.”
“He didn’t have that experience where he had a dad who would play catch or push him to his limits, so Andrew always pushed himself,” Frances Rash said.
Rash hit .344 as a Tech redshirt freshman in 2010, and capped his season by starting in the NCAA tournament.
He made the All-ACC first team in 2011, when he hit .335 with 53 RBIs and a league-best 18 homers.
“And that was with the new bat, the deadened bat,” Hughes said. “It was a phenomenal year.”
He finished sixth nationally in homers that year and competed in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb.
“I’ve always had the juice, [been] a big power guy,” said the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Rash. “It’s just the strength God gave me as far as my forearms and hands and wrists and the bat speed I have.”
As a third-year sophomore, Rash was eligible for the 2011 draft. He told teams he wanted a six-figure signing bonus. The San Diego Padres drafted him, but not until the 36th round.
Rash turned the Padres down, but he said he does not regret that decision.
Last season, however, he hit just .273 with seven homers.
“I definitely wanted to put up the same numbers [as in 2011] so people didn’t think it was a fluke, that I was just a one-hit wonder,” he said. “I was pressing way too much and getting frustrated. It was a terrible season.”
Before last year’s draft, Rash told teams he wanted a signing bonus of about $50,000. No one selected him.
Rash, 23, has done so well this year that Hughes expects he will be drafted next month.
Rash’s fifth year at Tech has benefited more than just the baseball part of his resume.
Last December, Rash graduated with a degree in human development. He took additional undergraduate courses this spring.
He also met his girlfriend at Tech . He has been dating Ella Greenberg, the middle daughter of former Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg, for more than four years. Their relationship recently became a long-distance one because she graduated in December and now works for the New York Mets.
Rash will get to end his Hokies career in the postseason. For the first time since 2010, the Hokies have qualified for this week’s ACC tournament. Next week, they will no doubt advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
“I didn’t succeed last year. I wanted to come back this year and get us to where we needed to be,” Rash said.
“To be able to go to the NCAA tournament and the ACC tournament two out of four years for a program that hasn’t really been on that map is a great accomplishment. It’s great to leave my legacy here.”
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