The Mike Rucci era began at Gloucester Catholic Monday morning, officially ending the baseball coach’s two-year stint at the helm at West Deptford.
Rucci, a 2001 Rams grad, was named to replace 19-year veteran head coach Dennis Barth, who is taking a short ride up Broadway to take over as the new head coach of Rutgers-Camden’s baseball team.
“Gloucester Catholic was good long before I was here, and it will be good long afterward,” Barth said in a video from the conference. “We’ve done special things…and all that’s going to continue under Mike.”
Given his status as a Gloucester Catholic alum, Rucci said West Deptford athletic director Tim Cammarota expected the Eagles would eventually lose Rucci to the Rams program at some point.
“He just didn’t think it was going to be this soon,” Rucci told the Gloucester County Times.
Barth leaves a steep legacy for his successor to try to live up to: 485 wins, six Diamond Classic crowns and a 9-1 record in state championships, including victories in the last three straight.
"I'll never fill Dennis' shoes," Rucci told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "But I'm going to give it everything I have and embrace the tradition."
Rucci becomes just the third Rams head coach since 1976—Barth took over from Al Radano in 1993. Meanwhile, West Deptford's coaching carousel continues to spin in the first-base dugout, where there have been five different coaches in less than a decade.
At West Deptford, Rucci guided the team to a sectional title in his first year, as the No. 10-seeded Eagles blew through the Group 2 field before downing Haddonfield in the finals for the program’s first-ever South Jersey championship.
Success didn’t come so easy in his second year, which saw the Eagles struggle to find wins, compiling a 9-16 record and a first-round loss in the playoffs. Rucci’s two-year record with the Eagles was 23-28.
There are still some loose ends to tie up at West Deptford, as well.
Rucci met with Eagles players Sunday to inform them of the decision, but didn’t submit his formal resignation until just minutes before the school board meeting Monday night. Though it could’ve been a last-minute addition to the agenda, superintendent Kevin Kitchenman said it was left off, given there are two full sports seasons in the interim.
A coaching search can begin after that resignation is accepted, likely at the Sept. 10 school board meeting, in what is now the fourth coaching vacancy in the last four months at the high school.