Patience Pays Off for Ratliff

Though it was just last June that Brooklyn Cyclones left fielder Sean Ratliff was in the College World Series as Stanford's regular season home run and RBI leader, the memory already seems distant to him. Now he focuses on becoming a consistent hitter as he endures his rigors of professional ball.

"It's been a long time since I've gotten the barrel of the bat on the ball like that," 21-year-old Sean Ratliff said to the Staten Island Advance after a towering two-run homer and multi-hit night at the Staten Island Yankees' Richmond County Ballpark on July 28.

Ratliff, the Mets' 4th round draft pick this year out of Stanford and the 2005 Colorado Gatorade High School Player of the Year, doesn't think that there's one thing in particular that's led to his slow start in the New York-Penn League where nights like July 28 have been far and few between. Entering Aug. 1, Ratliff had a .191 average, two home runs and seven RBI's in 29 games.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty hard," he says. "It's one of those things you just got to keep working, just keep trying to hit the ball hard and eventually things will start going your way. The game evens itself out as you go along."

"He's trying too much," Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo says. "I explained to him this game's not easy: nobody said this game is easy. You need to work hard and be smart"

Armchair analysts are quick to look at Ratliff's unorthodox batting stance. Ratliff, a rangy 6-foot-3 outfielder who has had success both as a power-hitting run-producer and a table-setter in the past, holds his hands parallel with his waist and close to his back leg in a relaxed position before moving into the hitting zone. He picked up the stance his junior year at Niwot High (Longmont, Colo.), from a coach at spring training in Arizona.

"He had me stand there, and he's just like 'Stand straight up, and I just want you to lean forward and use your hands and just hit some balls,'" Ratliff recalls. "He was just flipping to me and I was just crushing the balls. I thought 'Holy cow, there might be something to this.'"

Ratliff has tweaked and altered the stance since, but whenever it does get out of sync, it's always something he says can be fixed in a few hours in the cage that same day. It's the switch from metal to wood that he thinks has him lagging.

In his final season with aluminum, Ratliff hit .285 with 17 home runs, 54 RBI and six stolen bases this spring as a junior at Stanford, including a 13-game hitting streaking from March 8 to April 5, in which he went 22-for-51.

"With wood, if you're hitting it on the barrel, it's not any different [from metal]," he says. "But there's no forgiveness with wood. If you miss off the end of the bat, or you miss inside, you're probably not going to get that hit. You're probably going to get your broken, sore hands ... You can hit some stupid pitches with a metal bat and still hit 'em out."

There was one downside to Ratliff's 2008 season of college ball—his strikeout totals. He whiffed 80 times, 23 more than any of his teammates. Batting in the sixth hole, where Ratliff received and capitalized on a lot of RBI opportunities—he feels he didn't see as many good pitches to hit as he did at the top of the order.

With the Cyclones, the issue seems to have carried over: he has 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 94 at-bats. Ratliff believes he'll get better with more experience.

"I think I'm a guy who's going to hit for pretty good average," Ratliff says. "I'm going to be able to drive the ball out of the yard and drive in runs and hopefully solidify a spot in the middle of the lineup when I'm back to swinging the bat like I'm capable."

Ratliff had wood bat experience in the Alaska Baseball League in 2007, where he hit .301 with three homers, but that's about it—he was in the Cape Cod League in 2006, but as a pitcher. This season, he joined the Cyclones late because of how deep into the playoffs Stanford went, something which Alfonzo says has added to the slow start.

Though a center fielder in college, Ratliff says he is comfortable playing any outfield position. He joined the Cyclones too late to learn from a rehabbing Ryan Church, but did get to talk with Angel Pagan, who was the Cyclones' first star in 2001 and returned to Brooklyn on his way back from injury this season.

"I did the same thing when I was a young kid," Pagan says. "Every time I played with a big leaguer or a higher level outfielder, I'll be asking about the game. That's what you're here for, to learn and get better."

But even the sage of hitting advice in the Mets' minor league system, hitting coordinator and nine-year major league vet Lamar Johnson, knows that what Ratliff needs at the plate right now isn't advice.

"Basically, a guy like Rat, we just got to let him play," he says. "Right now, I just want to let him play ... After they've played a while, we'll sit down and talk about things I see as a coach, and then he'll tell me about things he feels as a hitter. He's so new to the organization."

Ratliff says he has not been trying too hard. He's tinkered with his swing some, starting his hands earlier, but he's yet to hit his stride. He wants to end his time in Brooklyn on a high note, with a comfort level with the wood, and prove that the Mets made the right decision when they drafted him in June.

"It's my first year here, I just want to show them that I can play," he says. "Hopefully I'll just be able to be productive and drive in some runs and maybe hit some balls out of the ballpark, play good defense everyday."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"It's been a long time since I've gotten the barrel of the bat on the ball like that,\" 21-year-old Sean Ratliff said to the Staten Island Advance after a towering two-run homer and multi-hit night at the Staten Island Yankees' Richmond County Ballpark on July 28.
\r\n
\r\nRatliff, the Mets' 4th round draft pick this year out of Stanford and the 2005 Colorado Gatorade High School Player of the Year, doesn't think that there's one thing in particular that's led to his slow start in the New York-Penn League where nights like July 28 have been far and few between. Entering Aug. 1, Ratliff had a .191 average, two home runs and seven RBI's in 29 games.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've been hitting the ball pretty hard,\" he says. \"It's one of those things you just got to keep working, just keep trying to hit the ball hard and eventually things will start going your way. The game evens itself out as you go along.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He's trying too much,\" Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo says. \"I explained to him this game's not easy: nobody said this game is easy. You need to work hard and be smart\"
\r\n
\r\nArmchair analysts are quick to look at Ratliff's unorthodox batting stance. Ratliff, a rangy 6-foot-3 outfielder who has had success both as a power-hitting run-producer and a table-setter in the past, holds his hands parallel with his waist and close to his back leg in a relaxed position before moving into the hitting zone. He picked up the stance his junior year at Niwot High (Longmont, Colo.), from a coach at spring training in Arizona.
\r\n
\r\n\"He had me stand there, and he's just like 'Stand straight up, and I just want you to lean forward and use your hands and just hit some balls,'\" Ratliff recalls. \"He was just flipping to me and I was just crushing the balls. I thought 'Holy cow, there might be something to this.'\"
\r\n
\r\nRatliff has tweaked and altered the stance since, but whenever it does get out of sync, it's always something he says can be fixed in a few hours in the cage that same day. It's the switch from metal to wood that he thinks has him lagging.
\r\n
\r\nIn his final season with aluminum, Ratliff hit .285 with 17 home runs, 54 RBI and six stolen bases this spring as a junior at Stanford, including a 13-game hitting streaking from March 8 to April 5, in which he went 22-for-51.
\r\n
\r\n\"With wood, if you're hitting it on the barrel, it's not any different [from metal],\" he says. \"But there's no forgiveness with wood. If you miss off the end of the bat, or you miss inside, you're probably not going to get that hit. You're probably going to get your broken, sore hands ... You can hit some stupid pitches with a metal bat and still hit 'em out.\"
\r\n
\r\nThere was one downside to Ratliff's 2008 season of college ball—his strikeout totals. He whiffed 80 times, 23 more than any of his teammates. Batting in the sixth hole, where Ratliff received and capitalized on a lot of RBI opportunities—he feels he didn't see as many good pitches to hit as he did at the top of the order.
\r\n
\r\nWith the Cyclones, the issue seems to have carried over: he has 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 94 at-bats. Ratliff believes he'll get better with more experience.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I'm a guy who's going to hit for pretty good average,\" Ratliff says. \"I'm going to be able to drive the ball out of the yard and drive in runs and hopefully solidify a spot in the middle of the lineup when I'm back to swinging the bat like I'm capable.\"
\r\n
\r\nRatliff had wood bat experience in the Alaska Baseball League in 2007, where he hit .301 with three homers, but that's about it—he was in the Cape Cod League in 2006, but as a pitcher. This season, he joined the Cyclones late because of how deep into the playoffs Stanford went, something which Alfonzo says has added to the slow start.
\r\n
\r\nThough a center fielder in college, Ratliff says he is comfortable playing any outfield position. He joined the Cyclones too late to learn from a rehabbing Ryan Church, but did get to talk with Angel Pagan, who was the Cyclones' first star in 2001 and returned to Brooklyn on his way back from injury this season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I did the same thing when I was a young kid,\" Pagan says. \"Every time I played with a big leaguer or a higher level outfielder, I'll be asking about the game. That's what you're here for, to learn and get better.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut even the sage of hitting advice in the Mets' minor league system, hitting coordinator and nine-year major league vet Lamar Johnson, knows that what Ratliff needs at the plate right now isn't advice.
\r\n
\r\n\"Basically, a guy like Rat, we just got to let him play,\" he says. \"Right now, I just want to let him play ... After they've played a while, we'll sit down and talk about things I see as a coach, and then he'll tell me about things he feels as a hitter. He's so new to the organization.\"
\r\n
\r\nRatliff says he has not been trying too hard. He's tinkered with his swing some, starting his hands earlier, but he's yet to hit his stride. He wants to end his time in Brooklyn on a high note, with a comfort level with the wood, and prove that the Mets made the right decision when they drafted him in June.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's my first year here, I just want to show them that I can play,\" he says. \"Hopefully I'll just be able to be productive and drive in some runs and maybe hit some balls out of the ballpark, play good defense everyday.\"
\r\n
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