NWL notes: Rapp embracing new start

Giants prospect keeps in touch with family during first year

By Patrick Brown / Special to MLB.com | August 10, 2012 8:19 AM ET

Just to pursue his goal of becoming a Major Leaguer, Salem-Keizer first baseman Joe Rapp had to move across the country. He's now thousands of miles away from his family and is constantly on bus rides that last for hours on end.

There are more games on the schedule than ever before, new equipment to utilize and new teammates to gel with.

As far as he's concerned, he's simply living the dream.

Though the Volcanoes have struggled to find much consistency this season, Rapp has certainly done his part to make an impact. The team finished 13-25 in the season's first half but is back in the thick of things for a second-half push, sitting in third place in the West Division with a 7-8 record. In 50 games Rapp has seven home runs, 32 RBIs and 29 walks, which rank fourth, fourth and sixth in the Northwest League, respectively.

The 22-year-old was prepared for the grind when he was drafted and so far has hardly let it affect him. He's been able to draw on prior experiences to help him deal with the distance from his friends and family. He's close with both his siblings, and although the Sarasota, Fla., native must now deal with a three-hour time difference, he makes sure to never take even the quickest of phone calls for granted.

"Any time that I do get to talk to them I just kind of cherish it," he said. "You don't know how long it's going to be until I talk to them again."

College prepared him to be away from his family -- the University of Louisiana at Monroe is roughly 14 hours from Sarasota. Frequent bus trips in college also helped him know what to expect as a professional, especially considering many of those trips were longer than the ones he takes now.

It's the everyday baseball grind, though, that truly affects those new to professional ball. For that, he approaches the game with a level of respect that's more often seen at the Major League level.

"Baseball itself is frustrating, and losing hasn't been very fun," Rapp said. "I work as hard as I can and take every day like it's my last day on the field."

Rapp has also had to adjust in the infield -- in 49 games at first base this season, he has committed just five errors and is settling into his new surroundings. According to him, though, the new challenges are a fortunate problem to have, and he wouldn't want it any other way.

If all goes well, he will need to readjust to his settings a few more times throughout his career, with the last stop in San Francisco.

"Playing every day is something that you dream about as a kid," he said. "Actually getting the opportunity to do it, to go to the ballpark every day, is great."

In brief

Rock steady: Boise Hawks infielder Rock Shoulders has won MiLB.com's Moniker Madness competition, beating out the Hickory Crawdads' Rougned Odor. Shoulders responded to the fans' voting by hitting a grand slam the very next day in the Hawks' 8-6 win over Everett.

Welcome back All-Stars!: The Northwest League has announced it will play its first All-Star Game since 2004 next season, an event that will be hosted by a different team each year. The 2013 game will be hosted by Everett and include a Home Run Derby.

Who's hot/who's not: Eugene right-hander Justin Hancock has 12 strikeouts and just four walks while not allowing an earned run in his last 10 1/3 innings. Spokane first baseman Ryan Rua has hit .386 with nine RBIs in his last 10 games. Vancouver shortstop Derrick Chung has hit just .091 (2-for-22) in his last seven games.

He said it: "Every team goes through a sputtering time and this is our time, We're going through that time. I think every team is gonna do it." -- Eugene Emeralds manager Pat Murphy to the Eugene Register Guard about the team getting swept for the first time this season.

Patrick Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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