March 24, 2005
When Jim Rapoport was a high school junior at Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, California, he and has father Steven hatched their '10,000 swing' plan. The duo felt that's the type of volume Jim needed to put in that season to improve his swing -- and that was AFTER regular practice.
Although he doesn't know exactly how many extra hacks he got in that year, Rapoport figures the two reached their goal.
'I took about 300 extra swings every day after practice,' said Rapoport about the sessions that took place an average of four times a week.
It doesn't take long to figure out that he was taking about 1,200 extra swings each week and probably ended up well over the 10,000 swing goal by the end of the season.
With Jim taking all the swings, the logical question to ask is who was the poor person having to throw all of the batting practice.
Of course, it was Steven.
But the good news for Rapoport's dad was that Jim took his extra swings using the common baseball drill of 'soft toss', where the 'pitcher' stands just a few feet away from the batter and feeds underhanded tosses.
Although Steven's availability is much more limited with the father-son duo now living in different parts of the state, Jim has been able to keep up his extensive work habit with a soft toss machine his father purchased for him when he was in high school.
Rapoport keeps the one-and-a-half foot tall machine in his car and uses it often but claims the hitting device is no match for the real thing.
'I have more fun when I hit with my dad, plus he's more consistent,' laughed Rapoport, who still hits with Steven whenever he goes home.
Rapoport hopes his hitting continues to improve the way his speed did when he executed another plan early in his prep career. Now arguably the fastest player on the team, it wasn't always so for Stanford's speedy centerfielder.
'I really didn't feel like I was that fast my freshman year in high school,' acknowledged Rapoport.
That's when he met Jeff Barnhardt at a West Coast Baseball School camp. Rapoport was impressed and soon was working with the speed coach once a week. The sessions immediately began to make a difference as evidenced by a 60-yard time that dropped about a full second to its current 6.6.
Now, he's capable of beating out just about any ground ball that takes an extra hop or two, and there's no such thing as a routine single when he gets the ball by the infielders for a base hit.
'I just want to do everything I can to make myself the best player I can be, which in turn can help our team win,' explained Rapoport. 'My work ethic has become ingrained in me. I want to strive to do the best I can and know that after a game or a series that I gave it my best. I want to know that if anything bad happened, it wasn't because of a poor job of preparation.'
Rapoport had plenty of time to prepare for this season during his rookie campaign a year ago when he made just 12 starts, spending most of the season as a backup to fourth-year starter Sam Fuld in centerfield.
The preparation that Rapoport put in helped him take over for the graduated Fuld this season. He has improved steadily throughout his first year as a collegiate starter and has his batting average up to .303 thanks to a current career-high five-game hit streak in which he is batting .529 (9-17).
Rapoport claims that the environment around Stanford Baseball has been just what he wanted.
'I had heard only great things about the school and the baseball program at Stanford,' said Rapoport, who admits that there were a few snickers from some of his high school teammates about his '10,000 swings' and running plans. 'The players at Stanford really encourage each other to work hard. Everybody always wants to get better, and we're doing everything we can to be as good as we can be. We have a great tradition of winning at Stanford, and my experience has been that winners do something extra.'
With the several plans he already has in place, one only wonders what he could do for an encore.
by Kyle McRae