Rags To Riches

Throughout the Mets Fall Instructional League and Winter Mini-Camp, Corey Ragsdale was one of the hardest working players, often staying on the field after his teammates had long since left for the day. Some of that hard work has started to payoff as Ragsdale drilled extrabase hits, including a homerun, in his first two ABs in yesterday's high-A ball spring contest.

Ragsdale has been somewhat of an enigma since being drafted out of high school in the 2001 draft. He shows all the physical tools of being a gifted ballplayer, but in two seasons of pro ball, he has yet to put together the offensive side of his game. Though he has only managed a .180 minor league career average, and has struck out once every 2.6 ABs, the kid oozes with potential. 69 SBs. The rare combination of speed and power. A great glove at short. A powerful throwing arm. He's shown enough to get extra attention from the coaching staff, and be promoted up the ladder despite not finding the key to being able to hit.

There is no question that some of the extra attention comes from being a high draft pick with a big bonus. But a lot of it comes from his talent and his work ethic. In addition to wanting to recoup their investment, the Mets see the talent. They hold out hope that every season, every game, every at bat, is the one where it all clicks for Corey Ragsdale.

Rags knows that he's getting an extended opportunity. He comes to every practice, every game, with a game face on and concentrated visage of determination. He knows it's a fine line between sticking with an investment and cutting your losses.

So yesterday, when in his first at bat he knocked a prodigious homerun over the fence, his teammates all jumped to their feet to greet him at home plate. The coaches all patted him on the back. Players across the cloverleaf in the low-A ball game yelled, "Way to go, Rags." One teammate thumped him on the back and told him, "Hey, kid, it's okay to smile."

But Ragsdale never broke his game face, determined to carry over the success of one at bat into the next one. The quiet kid shuns the attention. He just keeps working to justify the team's continued investment in his development. Maybe this game is the game. Maybe this season is the season, that Rags breaks out.

PHOTOS: Whealey(2), Wendt, Bowman, Wilson, Bladergroen, Harper, Alfonzo, Rondon, Ragsdale, A. Garcia(3), Deaton(3), Ragsdale(2), Baldiris, Deaton, Harvey, T. Piazza, Slack, E. Rodriguez, Ragsdale(2), Deaton(2), Alfonzo(7), Davidson, Bowens, Weintraub

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