Stanford Baseball Feature - Jim Rapoport
May 2, 2006
by Kyle McRae
If you look carefully enough, you can see the similarities of the paths taken this season by the Stanford Baseball team and junior outfielder Jim Rapoport.
Both came into the year with lots of experience. The Cardinal had six of its eight position player starters returning, while Rapoport started 57 of the team's 59 games a year ago.
Both started 2006 with lofty expectations after showing flashes of brilliance in 2005 but were still a bit unproven. Despite its six returning position player starters, Stanford had no All-Pac-10 players back. Rapoport had shown his potential during a torrid 13-game hit streak during the middle of the 2005 campaign, batting .521 (25-48) during the stretch to raise his average to .392 by mid-April but slumping at the end of the season to finish at .297.
And, both have struggled mightily at times in 2006 with the Cardinal record at just 19-20 and Rapoport mustering only a .244 batting average, but both of those situations look like they are starting to change.
Stanford played one of its best series of the season to take two-of-three from then No. 16 Arizona State last Friday-Sunday and Rapoport was one of the main reasons why. He hit safely in all three games of the series and was 4-for-9 with a triple, homer and seven RBI in the final two contests versus the Sun Devils.
Rapoport also arguably provided the most exciting and memorable moment of the season when he raced around the bases for an inside-the-park grandslam to spark an 11-4 victory over the Sun Devils last Sunday.
'That was the first time I've ever seen that before,' said Rapoport of his rare feat. 'It was the most exciting play I've ever had.'
Just the fact that Rapoport had an opportunity to make that play is a credit to his toughness after suffering through an offensive and defensive slide that got bad enough just two weeks ago for the coaches to remove him from the starting lineup.
'I just kept grinding,' said Rapoport. 'I've learned not to let anything in the past affect what was going to happen in the present or the future. I decided to take an aggressive approach - knowing that I'm going to get a hit or make a play, instead of hoping to get a big hit or make a play.'
Stanford also plans to keep grinding and building on the momentum the club built with the series victory over Arizona State. The Cardinal has three Pac-10 series remaining and believes that an even 12-12 conference record, which would take a 7-2 finish in its final three league series, would be good enough to get the club back into the postseason for the 13th consecutive year.
'We just have to take every game one at a time,' explained Rapoport. 'We need to just coming in to every game knowing we're going to win.'
Rapoport hopes to be a big part of the stretch drive for the Cardinal.
After a three-game hiatus out of the starting lineup, he's back as the team's starter in left field rather than his customary spot in center field, which has been taken over by a red-hot Ryan Seawell.
'It is the first time I had ever played left field in my life,' laughed Rapoport, who is now on a four-game hit streak and has played excellent defense at his new position. 'I still consider myself a center fielder, but I just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win.'
If he keeps playing like he did in the Arizona State series, Stanford will have a good chance to do just that.