RICHMOND, Ky. - Former UVa-Wise baseball coach and athletic administrator Ray Spenilla has been inducted into the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a student-athlete and graduate assistant at his alma mater.
EKU is a NCAA Division I school located in Richmond, Ky. with an enrollment exceeding 16,000. The athletic teams compete in the Ohio Valley University. The EKU Athletic Hall of Fame was initiated in 1974 and in that same year, the school inducted its inaugural 25 members. To this point, less than 100 members have been inducted to the exclusive club.
Spenilla was a four-year letterman for Coach Jack Hissom's EKU baseball team from 1972-75. After posting batting averages of .236 and .257 his first two seasons at EKU, his career took off his junior season when he hit .322 with a school record 34 runs batted in, while leading the Colonels in at bats, hits, triples and home runs. He began his senior season in grand style, slugging a game-winning home run in the 2-1 defeat of Morehead State that secured the Ohio Valley Conference Fall Eastern Division title. He also excelled in the classroom, graduating with a double major and being named the Outstanding Male Physical Education major in 1974.
While serving as captain of the 1975 team, at the time of his graduation, he was EKU's record-holder for most hits in a season and for a career. He was also the seasonal and career hits and RBI leaders when he graduated. He finished that final season at Eastern with a robust .408 batting average, a mark that still ranks among the top 20 batting averages in EKU history. Following his collegiate stint as a player at EKU, he returned for the 1976 season, serving as a graduate assistant as Eastern ranked fourth nationally in team batting average with its hearty .340 average.
“This is a supreme honor for me and I am so very thankful to be chosen as a part of this most special group”, said Spenilla.
After departing Eastern, he began a 30-plus year career in education where he served as a teacher, coach and administrator, compiling numerous awards for excellence in those professional areas. He began his 10-year coaching career by leading Lynch High School to its first conference title in 13 years. He then moved to Castlewood High School in Virginia where his teams won 132 games and lost only 22 in seven years, while capturing seven consecutive conference titles, two regional titles and a state runner-up trophy. When he had retired as coach, his teams had won 10 championships at the high school and collegiate level and he was named Coach of the Year nine times.
He came to the UVa-Wise campus in 1985 and took the reins of one of only two programs on the Wise campus where there were no scholarships, athletic trainers or assistant coaches. Over his 11 years as head coach, UVa-Wise won two league titles, recorded five postseason playoff appearances and won more than 200 games. In 1996, he became Associate Athletics Director at UVa-Wise before becoming Athletics Director in 2001. He was named twice on Who's Who in Education and he was given University of Virginia's Harrison Award for Teaching Excellence in 1998.
He was inducted into the UVa-Wise Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999 and an award for the top Physical Education senior at UVa-Wise has been named in his honor. In 2003, UVa-Wise athletics received the prestigious national recognition as it garnered the National Points of Light Daily Award which honors those groups that have made an effort to assist their communities through volunteering. During his tenure as UVa-Wise's Director of Athletics, the Cavaliers hung 29 banners, denoting conference, regional and national success that included 14 championships. After his retirement in July, 2009, he has remained in community service, serving as a volunteer patient advocate at the Norton (Va.) Cancer Center where he serves patients by fundraising, speaking engagements and baking for them. He also continues to serve UVa-Wise as an adjunct health educator.
Spenilla lives in Wise with his wife Jennifer, the couple has two grown sons Nick and Josh.