Brian Ralph '98

Baseball - Hall of Fame Class of 2013



 

Harvard Athletic Achievements

No one needed to speak to just how good Brian Ralph was at baseball—he told people with his bat. Brian was named the 1997 Ivy League Player of the Year, but didn’t stop there. The following year he led the Harvard baseball team to its most successful season in program history, earning 36 wins along the way while tabbing a 17 game win streak. 
 

Brian was named to the All-Ivy First Team twice (1997, 1998) and is ranked third in career home runs (18). He is tied for first in home runs in a season (10 in 1997). He also compiled the longest hitting streak in Harvard history, getting a hit in every game from April 27, 1997 – April 10, 1998 (21). In 1997, Brian accumulated 64 hits—good for third all-time.
 

The three-year letterwinner helped his team to Ivy League titles in 1997 and 1998, advancing to the NCAA Regional both times. Brian helped his team to two big wins in the tournament against Nicholls State and Tulane. The Crimson wrote in June of 1998 that Brian is “the man Walsh has called the greatest defensive centerfielder in college baseball.”
 

Remembering Harvard Athletics

The Class of 1998 experienced an incredible amount of success during our time at Harvard.  12 of the 14 honorees tonight are from this Class and it is a tremendous feeling to be here with all the other inductees.

Thank you to the Harvard Varsity Club.  I’m not sure about the others, but apparently if you work at the Varsity Club during your time at school, that goes a long way towards getting your name called for the Hall of Fame.

I remember coming to Harvard in the Fall of 1994 from Southern California probably never having played a baseball game in weather colder than 55 degrees.  I soon realized I wouldn’t play many games in weather warmer than 55 degrees while at Harvard.  My Freshman year our team went 10-25 and we had about the worst record of the 300+ teams.  Those who know me well know I have a bit of a competitive streak and this did not sit well with me.  However, my ’98 baseball class was very talented and so was the incoming class so I held out hope.

As far as the rest of campus life, I absolutely loved being a student at Harvard and was enjoying my time in Cambridge immensely.  A fairly large group of friends from all over the U.S. soon became my closest friends and still are to this day.  The memories of living in Holworthy and Mather seem like events that happened yesterday.  I remember having breakfast in Mather regularly with David Forst and Tommy Blake and Matt Birk (although the rest of us didn’t eat nearly as much as Matt did).  Memories such as riding the Red Shuttle up to the Yard and walking along the river and across the bridge are things I’ll never forget.  I can’t thank the University enough for impacting my life in such a positive way.
 
Baseball is very much a game of individual statistics and that certainly helps with individual recognition, but I’d like to spend my time talking about the success of the teams I played on.  Without my teammates, there is no chance I’d be here tonight.

First, from that 10-25 campaign in 1995, we then lost in the Ivy Championships the following year and then won the Ivy Titles in 1997 and 1998.  To give those teams some context, we went 34-6 in the Ivies over those two years.  That is the best 2 year record of any Ivy League baseball team ever – not just at Harvard.  The 1998 team won 36 games – which is also the most wins ever for any Ivy League baseball team.  And for that accomplishment, I would first like to thank the guys in my ’98 class:  David Forst, Aaron Kessler, Brett Vankoski, Mike Marcucci, and John Wells.  The 6 of us knew we had a chance to change the program and we sure did.  Our coaches Joe Walsh, Gary Donovan, and Marty Nastasia brought a spirit and confidence that our squad needed to get to the next level.  They also brought an uncanny ability to turn a 20 minute van ride from the hotel to the stadium into a two hour Florida tourism tour on our Spring trip.  I thank them for being almost as competitive as I was, but also for making sure we always had fun and that we knew playing baseball at Harvard was an honor.  There are so many other coaches and teammates who played key roles for the success on the field that I couldn’t possibly thank them all by name, but to me, this honor is really about them.

More important than the wins, though, is that many of these guys remain my best friends today.  The times we get together and have the chance to talk about how we were so close to the College World Series and the program defining wins at Miami and in the NCAA Tourney just would not be the same without them.    It can be easy to lose track of those memories with the busy lives we all lead.

As I close, I’d like to thank my loving wife Sarina for helping me become the person I am today and sticking with me during my minor league career.  A special thank you goes to my two biggest supporters who are no longer with us – Coach Joe Walsh and my dad.  They always pushed the 5’9, 170lb little guy to the top.  And thanks most of all to my mom – I never would have made it to Harvard without you.