In Focus: Strictly Business

Find this article on page 177 of this week's LSU At the Game program.
Find this article on page 177 of this week's LSU At the Game program.
Allen Alongi
Allen Alongi

Raph Rhymes' Approach to Hitting Produces Superb Results

Leading the nation in batting average while producing a team-high 53 RBI last season, Raph Rhymes was the center of the Tigers' collection of skill as he helped lead LSU to an NCAA Super Regional. Even with a full arsenal of talents at his fingertips, Rhymes takes the time every day to work on the basics, or as he would put it, "taking care of business."

"I go about every day like it's a business day. I don't like to take days off because as soon as you think you have this game figured out, it can come back and numb you really quick," said Rhymes. "I like to hit and work on my defense but mainly I like to improve all aspects of my game. It's a humbling game, no one has it figured out, and so I go about every day trying to get better."

Rhymes led the entire NCAA last season with a school-record .431 batting average as he accumulated 100 hits and scored 44 times for the Tigers. As a result of his hard work, Rhymes was named a First-Team All-American and the SEC Player of the Year, and he was selected in the 30th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.

After a brief discussion with LSU coach Paul Mainieri, Rhymes assured himself he was content in staying with the Tigers for his senior season.

"It's my life-long dream to be drafted and play professional baseball," Rhymes said. "It was an awesome experience to hear my name called by the Yankees, but my heart is here at LSU. I knew that going into the draft and I talked to Coach Mainieri about it. I enjoy my time here very much."

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Rhymes' college career began in 2008, when he tried out for the LSU squad as a walk-on and narrowly missed making the team. He transferred to LSU-Eunice, where he was named 2010 Division II Junior College National Player of the Year and led the Bengals to a JUCO national title.

His passion for the game motivated him to continue playing and stay positive after falling short of earning a spot on the LSU roster. Rhymes knew that with new NCAA roster restrictions in place for the 2009 season, Mainieri simply didn't have an opening.

"I understand where Coach Mainieri was coming from. That (2009) team went on to win the national championship and they were a great team," said Rhymes. "When I left LSU I wasn't real sure if I was ever going to play baseball again. When I got the chance to go to LSU-Eunice I was thankful every day that I had the opportunity to play again.

"For a while there I thought I was done; once you think you're done playing the game that you love it's pretty tough and that thought is what kept me going forward," Rhymes said.

Since returning to LSU prior to the 2011 season, Rhymes has claimed numerous accolades and he will receive 2013 preseason All-America recognition. Although Rhymes was eligible to receive scholarship money from LSU, he decided to forego the funds to allow the Tigers to sign more players to grant-in-aids.

"I was thinking that there may be a recruit that we need that may not be able to come here because of financial reasons," said Rhymes. "I felt like I didn't need that scholarship as much as someone else did."

With fall practice recently completed and the 2013 opener just three months away, Rhymes feels that the team has become stronger since last season, which ended with an NCAA Super Regional loss to Stony Brook. He has remained optimistic and believes beyond a doubt that this year's team has what it takes to make it all the way to Omaha for the College World Series.

"We learned a lot from last year especially from the tough series with Stony Brook. Sometimes you have to lose to understand things better and we have grown massively because of that," said Rhymes. "We have a lot of talent from these young guys that have come in and they have been really impressive. I look forward to a successful season and a trip to Omaha."





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