Raburn Battles Back from Devastating Injury

Ryan Raburn is with out a doubt in his mind, having the best season of his pro baseball career, which surprisingly enough, almost came to an abrupt end following a near fatal ATV accident in 2002 shortly after he began his professional career.

The 24-year-old Plant City, Florida native was at home enjoying the off season following his first year with the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League, where he enjoyed multiple Player-Of-The-Week honors, when the freak accident occurred.

The injuries Raburn suffered were severe and included a dislocated hip, along with a broken leg in two separate locations as well as a broken collarbone. Doctors were certain that the extent of the injuries would bring an immediate end to Raburn's young baseball career.

"It certainly didn't look promising at that point. I was looking at hip-replacement surgery and they were not sure if my leg would heel properly," says a humbling Raburn. "They were pretty much telling me I was done with baseball for a while."

After two solid months of rest, followed by a rigorous rehab program, Raburn not only escaped the hip-replacement surgery, but fought this way back to the diamond with healthy return.

On June 18, 2002, he re-joined the Gulf Coast League Tigers, whom he first broke into pro ball with in 2001, for an eight game rehab assignment before moving north to West Michigan for the remainder of that season. In 40 games with the Whitecaps, he hit .220 with 33 hits, six home runs, 28 RBI's and scored 27 runs, eventually earning honors as the 25th best prospect in the entire Tigers organization as voted by Baseball America.

The 6'0", 185-pound Raburn was born in Tampa, Fl. where he grew up and developed his love for the game.

After a stellar varsity career at Durant High School in nearby Dover, Raburn was an 18th round selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the June 1999 draft, but surprisingly opted not to sign and continued his education at South Florida Junior College for the next two years.

"I think at the time I was hoping to go higher in the draft. But I didn't and thought it would be better to hold off, get an education and improve my game with hopes of going back in the draft down the road hopefully as a higher pick," Raburn's contends

Raburn's gamble paid dividends and two years later he was a fifth-round choice of the Detroit Tigers in the June 2001 draft.

Since signing with the Tigers in 2001, Raburn has had a successful, but gradual rise through the Rookie, Single-A and Double-A levels of the organization, spending the past two seasons with Triple-A Toledo.

Last season, Raburn appeared in 130 games and batted .253 with 19 home runs and 64 RBI's.

In 2006, Raburn has mirrored most of last years numbers and is well on the way to surpassing them.

After 476 plate appearances so far this season, Raburn has carried a .276 batting average including 115 hits, 19 home runs, scoring 62 runs.

Within those impressive numbers lies an incredible statistic of 75 RBI's thus far this season, fifth best amongst the IL, and in Raburn's opinion, the most important statistic a hitter can excel in.

"I'm very proud of my RBI total definitely," says Raburn who has also racked up 47 extra-base-hits in 109 games thus far this season.

"Hitting for average is great. Clearing the fences is great. But to be able to consistently knock runs in, to me, is probably one of the most valuable contributions a hitter makes to the team."

Defensively, Raburn has certainly increased his value inside the base lines after Toledo Skipper Larry Parrish introduced him to a new position as an outfielder.

Raburn, who primarily has been an infielder his entire career, has enjoyed spilt duties in 2006 between second base and leftfield, a position he never dreamed of enjoying, let alone playing.

"They were rumors during spring training they were thinking of moving me out there. Then they approached me about it and at first it was different, but I have to be honest, I've really taken to it and enjoy it as much as playing infield," says Raburn who as of August 10, had started in 68 games in left field and 34 games at second base.

"It is a different game out there as opposed to the infield. My approach is definitely different for sure, especially how I prepare for a game. I would say second base is probably a little more difficult to play, but playing the outfield brings out different demands on you as well."

Raburn is hoping the brass just an hour away in Detroit are following his fine season and new-found versatility as he ponders a return to the majors again after tasting life in the bigs for 12 games back in 2004 after finishing up with the Erie SeaWolves.

After starting the 2004 season in a rehab role at Single-A Lakeland, Raburn was promoted to Double-A Erie after just three games. He posted solid numbers with the Sea Wolves through 98 games, carrying a .301 average with 110 hits, 16 homers and 63 RBI's.

His impressive stats with Erie that season certainly helped to propel Raburn's boyhood dream of playing in the majors to become a reality. On September 12, 2004, Detroit requested his services as Raburn proudly wore the ‘Old English D' for the first time, playing in a dozen games with the Tigers that fall.

"That was an incredible year for me-no doubt," admits Raburn. "I was having a great year in Erie and I guess they [Detroit] felt I was ready at that time to come up see what I could do.

In a dozen at bats, Raburn collected four hits including a double, picked up an RBI and scored four runs for the Tigers.

"Like anybody who has been there, I know what it's like and I definitely want to get back some day."

Even with the banner season he is having in 2006, Raburn knows cracking the Detroit lineup this season would be a tall task considering the type of year the senior club is having.

"I really don't expect to hear anything this season," says Raburn "They're the best in baseball right now. The chemistry there is tight and I can't see too many things changing up there right now."

Raburn, for the time being, will continue working hard in Toledo as the Mud Hens continue to battle for position going into the playoffs with hopes of repeating as Governor's Cup Champions..

"We definitely have a talented team this year and I really believe this team has what it takes to win it all again," says Raburn who along with three other teammates, represented the Mud Hens in the 2006 IL All Star game played in Toledo.

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