Throughout the offseason, our staff has graded all of the Yankees’ players on how they performed during the 2012 season. Some players lived up to their spring training hype while others were unknown names in Yankeeland that has to earn the trust of not only the fans, but more importantly, the coaches. Sometimes, that player comes in to fill a huge need that a team needs due to an injury. One of those unexpected key cogs to the Yankee bullpen came from a lefty specialist, who was durable and getting out key lefties in big spots. I am talking about Clay Rapada.
In 70 games last season, Rapada was a durable lefty who went 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA. He was a solid second lefty to pair with Boone Logan for those matchups that manager Joe Girardi loves to set up with that binder of his. More times than not, Rapada got the job done holding batters to a mere .215 batting average against (.186 for lefties). He began his career in 2008 with the Detroit Tigers and has played with four teams in the past five seasons.
Over the Christmas holiday, I was fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to talk with the left-handed Yankee reliever about not only his time in the Bronx in 2011, but also about his faith. To go along with my contributions here at Yanks Go Yard, I, also, am a freelance writer for a Christian sports magazine where I write about stories and interview athletes who are grounded in their faith.
Rapada was born on March 9th, 1981 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Over the course of his childhood, he grew up a Chicago Cubs fan rooting for players such as pitcher Greg Maddux and shortstop Ryne Sandberg. Throughout his childhood, he viewed his dad as his off-field role model because of the driving force he was in Clay’s life. He also has appreciated other athletes non-baseball related such as Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis.
The reason why his father was a driving force was because of his faith. His father told him that faith had to be accepted and not forced onto an individual. Since that day, Clay has accepted Christianity and continues the journey down the narrow road. When I asked Clay about his favorite Bible Verse, he told me Galatians 6:9 which reads:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. “(Galatians 6:9)
This verse relates to the baseball field because if something becomes too difficult for us, people tend to get discouraged, but through persistence and hard work, the goal can be accomplished, such as becoming a Major League pitcher.
Finally, I asked Clay to reflect back on the 2012 season. The season did end in disappointment for the Bombers in not winning the World Series, but he replied “We have a strong faith in our clubhouse that dealt with many challenges last year, and look forward to next year.” This made me appreciate more the ability of the team to come together during that rough stretch in August and September and they were still able to find a way to be the 2012 American League East champions.
So, what was Rapada’s favorite moment of the 2012 season? “I remember a double play line drive,” Rapada mentioned, “that made me smile thinking to myself I didn’t draw it up like that, but it was a reminder that it’s not my will but God’s.” He looks forward to coming to Spring Training in February and the physical and mental challenges that come with another year of playing in the Major Leagues.
We, at Yanks Go Yard, thank Clay for taking the time to talk with us and we wish him nothing but the best as he prepares for the 2013 MLB season!
You can follow Clay Rapada on Twitter: @pada5something