Q & A: Brian Ragira

After a monster rookie campaign that saw him earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year accolades, Stanford super sophomore Brian Ragira is off to a hot start in 2012. The Cardinal cleanup hitter led the squad with 46 RBI last year, and he's already driven in 13 this season to go along with his .358 batting average.

Brian Ragira considered heading to Rice to play baseball before choosing Stanford. With the Owls visiting Sunken Diamond this weekend, it's a perfect time for an interview with a native Texan.

You had a monster freshman season as you Stanford's RBI leader. You're off to a good start again here in 2012. How have teams tried to adjust to you, and how have you adjusted back?
I think hitting in the fall and learning against [Stanford pitching coach Rusty Filter] has really helped. I think teams are approaching me the same way, trying to go similar location and similar off-speed stuff in certain counts. I've just been watching carefully, and am trying to adjust to those small details when teams adjust to me.

You were a member of the USA Collegiate National Team this summer. How did that experience help you as far as your development at the plate?
It was great. It's always an honor to wear the Red, White, and Blue and go out there and play with that type of guys. It was also a nice comfort factor to have Mark [Appel] out there with me too, so I had a little Stanford out there with me. It was good, just working on things that I felt I needed to work on from last year, and just trying to improve my game all around. So it was a good summer overall.

Speaking of stuff that you feel you need to work on, what is your biggest weakness as a player right now?
Last year, if you look at the stats, I struck out a little bit too much. So two-strike hitting, I worked on it in the offseason. And [Stanford coach Mark Marquess - ‘Nine'] is helping me out, because he was a great two-strike hitter when he played. That, and I'm still trying to get more comfortable at first base this year, because I just transitioned last year. It had been almost all outfield before that.

You've used the opposite field quite a bit this year. Is this part of your adjustment to cut down on the strikeouts?
Definitely, Nine is always talking to us about hitting the ball back up the middle with two strikes. That's how he was such a good two-strike hitter, and it's worked with me also. I'm just letting the ball get deeper with two strikes, it lets me see the break a bit more, it makes it easier to make contact. That's definitely part of my approach with two strikes.

You're part of a juggernaut of a lineup that is averaging over nine runs a game. Is there a comforting mentality surrounding this team knowing that any hitter can become a hero during any given game?
Yeah, we know that everyone can hit. It's nice to know that you can have an off day and another guy will go pick you up. You always want to hit well, but it's good to have that support around you. You called the offense a ‘juggernaut', and I think that's a good word. We're pretty tough one through nine.

You've already gotten to face a lot of Stanford's pitchers. Are there any hidden secrets fans should look out for coming out of the bullpen this season - guys that they may not know about quite yet?
Guys know about A.J. Vanegas, Dean McArdle, but David Schmidt is another guy you really have to look out for. Other guys are going to step up in the bullpen too. We'll be good there even if we have some question marks right now.

How are you doing balancing academics and athletics at Stanford?
I'll be zeroing in on a major here within the next two quarters. Academically, it's tough to balance it with baseball, but we all knew that coming in. We want to be on top both academically and athletically. Nine sits down and talks with us and really helps us out, because that was the type of student-athlete that he was.

Two strong Texas programs on your 2012 schedule. You're from the Dallas area, were you a supporter of either Texas or Rice growing up?
Once I started thinking about college, I always liked Rice in-state. [When we played] Texas, it was nice to see so many familiar faces on their roster. There were some guys I played against in high school. It was cool to have a quick chat with some guys whenever they got onto first base. Whenever we play a Texas school, it's a little taste of home over here in California.

About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.

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