Dr. Ken Ravizza, a longtime Cal State Fullerton sports psychologist whose methods helped guide the Chicago Cubs to a World Series title, died Sunday night at age 70.
According to his wife, Claire, he sustained a heart attack last week in Southern California.
Ravizza taught stress management and applied sports psychology at Fullerton for nearly four decades. He aided the Titans baseball and women’s gymnastics teams, which achieved national prominence.
From 1985-2000, Ravizza worked with the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, befriending then-Angels coach Joe Maddon. The two stayed in contact when Maddon became manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays from 2006-14 and then the Cubs starting in 2015.
“Ken was a pioneer in his field, and yet he was an even greater human being,” Maddon said in a statement released Monday by the Cubs. “He had this calm, patient approach to his craft yet his message was always loud and clear. His words were impactful, made you think and were accompanied by passion and understanding. Ken’s message resonated with a lot of different folks … whether you were a professional athlete who had reached the mountaintop, a first-year coach or somewhere in between, Ken was there to lend his voice and help others achieve their dreams.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant called Ravizza the “godfather” of sports psychology.
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, a Cal State Fullerton alumnus, tweeted Monday, “This morning the sports world lost one of the best mental game coaches to ever do it. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have never made it to the big leagues without @KenRavizza1. He always had a different perspective and I’ll never forget his voice! #YouWorkinIt RIP Kenny”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Ravizza also counseled some U.S. Olympians, the New York Jets, the USC and Nebraska football teams and the Cal State Long Beach and UCLA baseball teams.
Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead tweeted, “His impact on so many is immeasurable and his legacy will be a lasting one. Ken Ravizza used not only his professional skills, but his genuine compassion, honesty and caring for each individual he connected with.”
Maddon said, “He would always say ‘attitude is a decision,’ that it’s your choice to approach your day with a positive vibe or a negative vibe … that was something he related when we first met nearly 40 years ago and it still applies today. His voice and thoughts shall remain in my mind forever. He was a wonderful man and a great friend who made a major impact on my life and my coaching ability. On behalf of the Cubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Ken’s wife, Claire, and their two daughters, Nina and Monica.”