In Focus: Rhymes Continues LSU Family Legacy
Following in the footsteps of a family member can often be a hard task to follow, especially for an LSU Tiger. For junior outfielder Raph Rhymes, being the second member of his family to don the purple and gold is not as much as a challenge as it is an honor.
The Monroe, La., native's grandfather, Ray, played the hot corner for LSU in 1954 and 1955.
"I wanted to be like my grandfather and play third base," Rhymes said. "When I got to LSU, it was just anyway I can get onto the field. I just wanted to play. I tried to find his statistics, but I can't ever find them and he won't tell me. So I don't know if they were really good or really bad. He just won't tell me."
Although Rhymes could not replicate Ray's path, he believes the lessons and work ethic he learned while emulating his grandfather allowed him to overcome adversity.
"He just told me about enjoying the college experience," Rhymes said. "He just loved playing baseball and loved being an LSU Tiger. He wanted me to feel the same feelings he felt playing at LSU."
Rhymes attempted to walk-on at LSU prior to the 2009 season, but was unable to catch a roster spot with the eventual national champions. He instead transferred to LSU-Eunice, where he was named the 2010 National Junior College Player of the Year and led the Bengals a national title.
He hit .483 at LSU-Eunice in 2010 with 12 homers and 98 RBI. Most impressively, Rhymes showed a spectacular eye and only struck out nine times in 238 at-bats.
One could imagine that Rhymes would resent the Tigers for not granting him a roster spot during his freshman season. However, that wouldn't have demonstrated the love for the program that Ray helped to instill.
"I've been an LSU fan my whole life," Rhymes said. "I used to come here and watch when I was younger. It has always been a dream of mine to play here."
Rhymes spent the majority of his first season at LSU as the team's primary designated hitter because of an arm injury that limited his ability to throw. He emerged on the radar by batting .360, blasting three long balls and driving in 42 runs.
He ended up finishing the season in sole possession of sixth place in the SEC for batting average. His superb campaign also earned him the Newcomer of the Year award from the Louisiana Sports Writer Association and a 40th round draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although he could have gone pro, Rhymes believed he still had some unfinished business. This season Rhymes is penciled in as one of the outfield starters after undergoing off-season surgery on his right arm.
"I've focused a lot on my outfield play," Rhymes said. "When I had my surgery, I couldn't throw and I couldn't hit. All I could do was take fly balls. I really worked on my outfield game and I think that has really helped."
The willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the field and chip in anyway he can is one reason why this LSU team enters the season with a long postseason run on its mind.
"I want to help them offensively, help the pitchers out and be a good defensive player," Rhymes said. "Anything I can do to help this team make it to Omaha."
That would be just the thing to make Ray prouder than ever.