Matt Raettig helped Parkview to two state baseball championships and was part of the national-title winning Team Georgia squad in 2002. He earned a scholarship to play at Columbus State, but his pitching career was derailed before his senior season due to injury. Raettig only recently got into teaching and coaching, joining Mountain View's staff two years ago after a number of years in banking. He's now an assistant for the Bears' baseball and softball teams, while teaching math at the Lawrenceville school.
As a senior at Parkview, Raettig was 7-0 and batted .365 with nine home runs and a county-best 49 RBIs. The Panthers were 79-12 during Raettig's three seasons on varsity and he was named the Daily Post's player of the year in 2003 despite Parkview not winning the state title that season.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ...," Raettig talked with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including a tough end to his prep career, coming back to Gwinnett and how his wife, Jordan, the Mountain View girls cross country coach, got him into teaching.
CT: You only recently got into teaching and coaching? How did that happen? Because you were in banking, right?
MR: I was in banking for five years and my wife actually changed over, she became a teacher the year before I did. So she's on her third year and I'm on my second. You know, what really got me wanting to get into it was I loved the relationships that I was able to have at the bank on a personal level and a business level. My passion just wasn't with that.
I've always wanted to coach. Ever since I stopped playing in 2007, I've missed that aspect of always being out, being competitive. I took that team and the coaching aspects into the bank as far as being a manager, but I wanted to get back into the game.
That was a huge decision-making. Then you take these aspects from the field to the classroom and the classroom to the field. It made my decision very easy. I just knew this is where I want to be and I feel like I fit in pretty well. It's just a passion.
CT: You coach softball and baseball. Are the coaching philosophies applicable in both and yet applied in different ways?
MR: The good thing, it's the same type of sport. A lot of the coaching aspects are definitely the same. The techniques, what you do on and off the field with drills, a lot of that can be the same. The biggest difference, of course, is coaching males and females. There's pros and cons to both. You've just got to know the difference.
The first year was a struggle for me. I went from playing with a bunch of guys to coaching girls. It was a change. But it was something I became accustomed to and I'm fine with it now. I love it. The girls are great and the coaching staff here is great. They've been very helpful.
CT: Did you meet your wife in college?
MR: It was funny. I was playing baseball at the time and we actually met in the weight room at college. We were both working out and it was one of those things where we were staring at each other for about two weeks. And I will admit it, she was the first one to talk to me. Because, to be real honest, I was at a point in my career where I was baseball, baseball, baseball. Girls were the last thing on my mind. In college, you're playing baseball seven days a week and you're going to class five days a week. Trying to juggle those and trying to date at the same time is tough. She rags me about it all the time. That was my focus, but she came in at the right time and we've been hooked ever since.
We dated for a year and a month, got engaged and we've been married a little over five years now.
CT: Were you still in school when you got married?
MR: I graduated the end of May, we got married June 9 and I started a first job June 18. We went on our honeymoon and when we got back, that Monday, I started. She still had a year left of school. The she got her masters and now she's in her second year of getting her doctorate. And I'll be done in December with my masters in education.
CT: Not like you don't have enough to do, especially with a 2-year-old running around.
MR: (laughing) I know. It's so funny, with baseball last year, we were building the concession stand and everybody kept telling me we were building it so that I would have a place to sleep. Coach (Jason) Johnson and I would joke about, you get this room and I get this room and we'll just spend the night. But all the coaches, we spend countless hours. That's what it's about. Everybody says you don't coach for the money. You coach because you love the kids.
CT: Will you teach your son (Levi) play baseball?
MR: Yes, I will. He's about to turn 3, but he loves baseball. I take videos of him every day. He hits not only baseballs, he hits golf balls, shoots baskets. Luckily he got my wife's talent and not mine. He'll do anything he can to stay outside. We pick him up from daycare on the way home. We pull in the garage and he darts outside. It takes all we have to say, 'Hey, let's go inside for a few minutes and then we'll come back outside.' He is all about sports. I couldn't be more proud of him because already at 3, he's hitting. His hand-eye coordination is phenomenal. I know -- it's coming from a dad. I understand that.
CT: Your pitching record, you lost one game over your last two seasons at Parkview. Do you still remember that game?
MR: It's crazy. It was actually my senior year and it was the last game I ever pitched in high school. It was against McEachern when we got put out of the playoffs in the first round. We were ranked nationally after our 2002 season and we played such good ball for five or six weeks. We get to the first round of the playoffs, ranked No. 1 in the state, everybody says, they're going to go back-to-back-to-back (state champs).
I don't think it got to us as far as our heads being big or anything. McEachern just showed up to play -- and we obviously didn't. We ended up losing two straight games all on the same day. It was devastating. The good thing was that for those that were playing college ball, it will continue. It wasn't good for those that weren't, but for myself, I was lucky enough to go on to the next level. That was a comforting feeling, but it still wasn't fun.
That game, it was rough. We learned from it though. Defeat is OK sometimes. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves. We were lucky enough to win two of the previous years.
CT: I'm sure it doesn't seem like it to the kids you coach, but that really wasn't that long ago when you were in their shoes.
MR: That's right. I try to tell these kids. A lot of them think I'm in my mid-30s. And I tell them, no, I was there (in high school) not even 10 years ago. I know exactly how they feel. I know the emotions they're going through. In the classroom, I know. I was in college not even six years ago. And now I'm still in school.
So when y'all say you have too much work, I understand. But you've got to bear down and get it done.They have a hard time understanding that I was just there.
CT: Does Parkview of the early 2000s carry the street cred I think it should with these kids?
MR: (laughing) What street cred?
CT: Those were some good baseball and football teams.
MR: Well, we did have some strong teams those years. I can't speak on behalf of football, but with baseball, we had played with each other for almost seven years. Having that faith that the person next to you is going to get the job done and knowing that whoever is on the bump is going to be going 100 percent the whole game. And knowing if you make a mistake, somebody is going to be there to pick you up.
That's the biggest thing in coaching, letting these kids know they have to be there to pick that other person up. Because the next play, you might be the one making a mistake. It's all about character building and building up a program.
CT: When you were deciding on a college, was Columbus State always a frontrunner? Were you looking at other places seriously?
MR: Really, Columbus State was one of the only schools I was looking at. I knew they had a great program there. They always produce great players and always produce great seasons. Not only that, but they had the degree I wanted in the business field. It was a great fit for me. It wasn't too far from home, but it was far enough to where I would come home every weekend.
Georgia Southern was another school I was looking at. They were recruiting me pretty hard -- and that came after playing with Team Georgia. They recruited a bunch of guys from Team Georgia.
Of course, there were letters from other schools, from some of the D-I schools. But I knew my biggest thing was I wanted to go somewhere where I could make a difference my freshman year. It sounds greedy, but really I didn't want to have to go somewhere and sit. I knew Columbus State was a great program. I did not have a spot on the team. I went to Columbus with the knowledge that I was going to have to pay my time as a freshman and I may not play an inning. But I was going to go down there and work my tail off to where I had a shot at playing. I knew Columbus State was a place I could go and have a realistic chance of playing my freshman year.
I did not go on any other official visits. The campus was great. Everybody was great when I went down. I fell in love with it and the coaches, from Day 1, were great.
The biggest thing I try to tell my kids is go to a place where you feel like you're at home. That's what Columbus State felt like.
CT: And as you well know, sometimes you don't play for four years and so if you've only picked a place because of the team ...
MR: I played for two years and ran into some arm trouble. I didn't really want to have surgery and at some point, I knew I was going to have to hang them up. Do I look back on it every day and say, "Man, I wish I would have maybe done something a little different or given it a year and see if I could come back?" Every day I say that.
Could I still be playing? Well, maybe. But I chose a different route and I wouldn't have changed it for the world.
CT: You had a quote up on your teacher's web page from Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," and one from the Wright Brothers, "So many times people end up fixated on doing things right, that they end up doing nothing at all." Do those sum up what you believe when it comes to coaching and teaching?
MR: Absolutely. I put them out there and I have a lot of sports quotes. I have a quote of the week and a lot of times it has to do with sports, just because that was how I was brought up. I was constantly playing sports -- baseball, football, basketball, whatever it is -- and I like to use those tactics in the classroom. We can learn a lot from watching a game.
CT: So reading between the lines on the Wright Brothers' quote, sometimes failure is OK? Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed?
MR: Just like the last game I played for Parkview. Sometimes defeat is OK. Failure is good. It's humbling. Those that can be defeated and move on to a victory, those are the people that are going to be successful. Nobody is perfect. Nobody ever will be. There's only one perfect person that's walked this earth and it's nobody that's here right now. So we have to live knowing we're not going to be perfect, but we're going to be as close to perfect as we can be.
Our goal is to get to that point where we're OK with failure. We don't give up, but we also don't let it get to us.