Q&A with Dennis Raben
Dennis Raben
Dennis Raben

Posted Jun 5, 2008

Junior Dennis Raben was projected to be a top pick in the upcoming MLB Draft before this season began. The powerful right fielder was in a bit of a slump recently but he broke out of it on Sunday with a big day at the plate and a new hair cut to boot. Canes Time spoke with Raben about his hair, super regionals, and this week’s MLB draft.

You just recently got a new hair cut. What do people think about your Mohawk?

“People love it. In the past, when I had a Mohawk, I went on a little bit of a home run tear. Last year, Blake cut me up and gave me a Mohawk. We thought we’d try it out again this year and it worked the first game so I’m going to keep it.”

Do guys on the team say you’re like Samson with the powerful hair?

“Yeah. They like it. Some of the guys have talk about getting one but I don’t think anyone else is going to get one but they like it a lot.”

You’ve got to be pretty brave to get a Mohawk. Can anyone pull this look off?

“You’ve got to just throw looks to the side and just not care about them. I don’t think it looks good at all but it works so I’m going to keep it.”

How confident is this team going into the super regional against the Arizona Wildcats? Do you think this weekend will be a big test for you guys?

“We feel good. We feel like we played pretty good in regionals but obviously not our best. We made some errors. Our pitching was pretty good but they feel like they could’ve done better. The offense didn’t really step up in the first two games but we got out of there with three wins and no losses and we moved on to super regionals. Arizona is a very talented team. They’ve got a lot of good arms and their offense is similar to ours. We’ve got to bring our A game but we feel good going into it.”

With this week being draft week, how do you keep focused on the upcoming series and not let the pressure of the draft get to you?

“I think it helps out that we’re still playing and that we’re advancing to super regionals and that the season is still on because that’s what’s on our minds. We’re not thinking about the draft. Obviously it’s in a couple days but we feel like our play on the field will take care of that. What we’ve got to worry about is bringing home a fifth national championship.”

Is it that easy to not think about the draft?

“You work your whole life for the draft and obviously it’s a big day in everyone’s lives but so is this. You don’t have a shot at a national championship every year. We had a shot our freshman year and didn’t get it done. Last year was a down year. We know we’ve got something special this year and we’re going to take advantage of it and try to get a ring.”

The draft is a big day for all of the prospects on this team but Coach Morris has mentioned that it could also be a disappointing day for some of the eligible players. How will that affect the guys heading into the super regional?

“I think the best way for guys who are going to get drafted to look at the draft is to have no expectations at all. If you have no expectations or are just happy to be drafted, then you can’t be disappointed. A couple of guys weren’t drafted out of high school so it’s going to be a thrill for them either way. I think you’ve just got to stay focused on the task at hand and that’s trying to win a national championship and trying to get two wins this weekend before they do. I think we’ll be fine with that even if some guys aren’t drafted where they want to be drafted.”

You’ve been through the draft before as a senior in high school and after your impressive showing in the Cape the summer you were named a top prospect for this draft. Do you have any expectations for this draft?

“Draft wise, I’m just going to be happy. We’re going to be at practice I think. Hopefully that will take our minds off of it a little bit. Obviously, it’s going to be on a lost of guys minds but I think it’s going to be a huge relief for everyone when it’s over. Everyone’s looking forward to it so much but once it passes we can relax and focus on Arizona .”

Coach Morris tells the story of how Pat Burrell found out he was drafted first overall while he was in the on deck circle at the College World Series. Do you think it’s a relief to find out in a practice and not at such a key point in a game?

“Definitely. I wouldn’t want to find out where I was drafted, especially first overall, if I was on deck at the College World Series. They probably should’ve gone about telling him a different way. I think it’s good that we have practice and it’s not on a game day. After practice, the guys that are drafted can go out with their families and enjoy it and maybe have a little celebration and then on Friday come ready to play.

On Sunday, you had an impressive showing at the plate in your last game before the draft. Do you think that may have had an impact on scouts or do you think their evaluation of you was complete before then?

“I don’t think it had any impact. I think scouts have been watching us all year and they kind of have a feel for where they want to pick us and where they think we’re going to get picked. Within the last week, I don’t think it matters what you do because they’ve had a year to evaluate you and they know where they want to take you.”

What do you know about Arizona ’s pitching staff?

“They’ve got good power arms. I played with two of their guys this past summer in the Cape Cod League. One of them is projected to be a first rounder. He throws mid to upper nineties. I think he’s their set up guy right now. They’ve got a lot of power arms and like to throw a lot of fastballs but they’ve got good off-speed stuff. We’ll be ready for them though.”

Why do you think the number one overall seed has not won the NCAA Tournament since 1999 when the Hurricanes did it?

“I don’t know. When you’re the number one seed, everyone brings their A game. With us being Miami , everyone always tries to knock off Miami . I don’t know if it’s because they don’t like us or just because we have won recent national championships. It’s tough though. The number one seed has a bull’s eye on their back and everyone is shooting to knock you off but we’re going to do what we can to keep going.”

Did you guys need a game like Bethune’s to make sure everyone’s mindset was right?

“Yeah. Bethune is a great team. We played them twice during the year and they played us tough. They almost beat us one game where we came from behind and won. It’s definitely a big game to win and we fought back and came from behind and won.”

You hit a big home run in Sunday’s regional clinching game. What is it like to hit a ball that far that gets out that fast?

“That one in particular was a great feeling. I hadn’t done anything in the first two games and as soon as I made contact I knew it was gone. It was a huge relief off my shoulders and it felt great. It carried me for the rest of the game. I got a double and I worked a walk. Hopefully it will keep me going the rest of the way.”

Does it take some pressure off every hitter in this lineup knowing that there is no glaring weakness in it?

“Definitely. We have so many guys that are capable of getting the job done that not one guy is going to feel any extra pressure. Any guy can get it done at any given moment and we feed off each other.”

Is the fact that your lineup can put up such fantastic numbers what sets this Miami team apart from other teams in the past that could not get it done?

“At the beginning of the year, when everyone was on fire, they compared our lineup a lot to the 1998 team and saying how we had a lot of talent. Coach Morris always reminds up that the 1998 team isn’t up there as national champions even though they’re known as the most talented team to come through here. It’s an honor to be brought up in the same conversation as them but we want to get the ring and finish it off as national champs.”

Coach Morris has said a few times that he wants to call this team the best he has ever had. Does that give you guys any added pressure knowing that he has had so many great teams?

“That’s a great thing. I feel like we all feed off of that. When it comes playoff time, we all feed off of that. We feed off each other, the fans, the environment, hosting for the first time since we’ve been here because the energy here is awesome. We want to be called the best team to come here but I don’t think you can be called that unless you get the ring at the end.”

What do you think of Chris Hernandez’s freshman performance?

“He’s awesome. He hasn’t lost a game yet. He always keeps us in the game. His attitude, you can’t match it. As a pitcher, especially a freshman, his attitude is exactly what you want out there on the mound. He wants to be the best and wants to help his team win. He does that every time he takes the mound.”

What have you seen from Yasmani Grandal as the season has progressed? It seems like he has solidified his play as the year has gone on.

“He got a big hit in the Bethune-Cookman game. He got a big hit in the Missouri game as well and an RBI double in the Ole Miss game. He’s come up with some big hits in some key situations. He’s done a good job in clutch situations and he’s done a great job handling the pitching staff and calling the games.”

How big of a role will those two freshman play going into super regionals and hopefully Omaha ?

“They’re going to be huge. We’ve got Chris throwing on Friday and that’s the biggest game of the series. It sets the tone. Whoever wins on Friday only has to win one of the next two. We like our chances with Chris on the mound and Yasmani’s chemistry with Chris on the mound is great.”

Ryan Jackson has been successful all year but lately he has been on fire. What has been the difference for him?

“He had a great year and he did it all year. He had a great fall too. I think he had the highest average in the fall in the intrasquads. You know it wasn’t a fluke. He worked on his game offensively and you could tell in the fall when he was hitting the cover off the ball and he continued it in the spring. It has a lot to do with confidence. He has a lot of confidence, he’s had a great year and he’s continued it in the post-season.”

Carlos Gutierrez is the only person on this team to pitch in the College World Series and he has gone through a lot since then. How important is he to this team?

“He worked so hard to get back for this year. It was very difficult for him and for the team to not have him last year. Tommy John is a difficult thing for anyone to go through. He’s a captain on this team and everyone looks up to him as a leader. They threw him out there even though they knew his arm was not feeling that great in Omaha my freshman year. He went out there and he’s a warrior and tried battling. He knows what it takes to get there. I think he takes the pitching staff under his wing and having him at the back of the bullpen, there’s no one you would rather have back there.”

Hosting a regional allows you guys to be in a familiar routine but can it also be a distraction?

“Yeah. On the road, you know you’re there to play ball. My freshman year, we went to Ole Miss for super regionals and we were there to win baseball games. You’ve got to have the same attitude when you’re at home. Carlos and Santana might be the only guys that have hosted before and that was their freshman year. We got a taste of that this weekend and had a great weekend. We hope to carry it on to next weekend and I think being at home is definitely an advantage for us.”

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