Kings of Kauffman recently caught up with John Rave, who was a fifth-round draft pick in 2019 for the Kansas City Royals out of Illinois State.
One certainty with the Kansas City Royals is they will have plenty of speedy outfielders in the pipeline to potentially roam the spacious grass at Kauffman Stadium. Another prospect was added to that mix this year fresh off an excellent college career with the Redbirds. John Rave is a left-handed hitter who, after the draft, played for both Burlington and Lexington in the Royals minor league system. I was able to touch base with Rave and ask him questions about many aspects of his baseball life.
Q: You were originally drafted out of high school by the Boston Red Sox. Was the intention to always go to college first or did you have a tough choice to make when they called?
A: I don’t think there was a hard and fast plan in place for me. It had to be the right situation for me to forgo playing college baseball. Looking back I have two thoughts…1) I am grateful to the Red Sox for their faith in me and bringing to life the thought I could potentially go beyond the college level. 2) I realized the time I spent developing at Illinois State has physically and mentally helped me more than I could have recognized as a young 18-year-old player.
Q: The Cape Cod League is pretty prestigious and you excelled in your summer there in 2018. How would you compare it to playing Division I baseball?
A: The Cape is hard to describe to people who are not die-hard baseball people. While I’ve played against and with some incredibly talented players, the Cape allowed me to see a Friday night guy every single game. In the college, you might not have 5-6 amazing arms on every team in a three-game series but in the Cape, everyone is the best of the best and it just keeps coming.
For me, it allowed me to measure myself against guys that are the best on their respective (college) teams and conferences that might also soon be entering the draft. Any success I had helped to foster confidence in my mind. It was the experience a lifetime and I met lifelong friends while I was there. Tough competition is exciting.
Q: Growing up in Illinois and being a Redbird yourself, were you a Cardinals baseball fan and if so what do you remember about Mike Matheny when he was managing St. Louis?
A: Well it’s funny because my family moved to the St. Louis area around 2000 while Mike Matheny was a catcher for the Cardinals. I was pretty young but I used to recite the lineup every day. My whole family are Chicago Cubs fans and growing up in that area in my younger years I was the only Cardinals fan in the house.
I was lucky enough to see him as a player and later as a manager. I’ve always appreciated from afar what he projects as pure passion. As a player in this organization, it gives me a lot of excitement when I think of what he stands for in that regard.
Q: What goals have you set for yourself during your first pro spring training next year?
A: My goals are pretty simple. I want to see what is deep down inside of me. I will be playing against a level of competition that requires your all, every single day. No letting off and I’m excited to push myself every day.
Q: Do you have expectations of what level of ball you want to be playing at next season?
A: I don’t have a “goal” of being at a certain level of ball in a certain timeframe. I want to work hard and trust I’ll end up where I am supposed to be. Placing goals like what level you think you should be at is a sticky situation. Sometimes you have people ahead of you that can slow or excel your path. Needs and injuries can be a factor. I just want to show the effort and my skillset during Spring Training and help the organization at whatever level I am placed.
Q: You were part of one of the many teams in the Royals organization that won a title last year. How does that help with chemistry and developing a winning culture?
A: I believe that is huge. I was able to play with a great group of guys in Lexington and the staff was incredible. Our dugout was all in from the players and the staff and that breeds confidence. The Royals organization has such a positive vibe right now that it makes us, at all levels, want to be part of it.
Q: You helped rally Lexington in Game 1 to a comeback in the finals. Do you approach high leverage situations like that differently than if you were coming up in the 2nd inning with no one on base?
A: To be honest you do get a little more amped up in those situations. But that can also lead to a lack of focus and fundamentals. No player should think a second-inning at-bat isn’t important, they are all important. The fans remember the walk-offs more often and it is really fun. But beating out a single in your first at-bat or drawing a walk in the sixth inning is also important as well. Baseball has a way of rewarding a team and player for those things.
What is one interesting fact about you that Royals fans do not know yet?
A: I like to hunt in the offseason as time allows.
A huge thank you to John Rave (@john_rave) for his time and thoughtfulness put into his answers. I look forward to watching him progress through the Kansas City Royals organization!