Thomas Nichols - Jack of All Trades

Going into his junior year at Georgia Tech, Thomas Nichols could prove to be a very valuable member of a Georgia Tech team that returns starters at most positions. Nichols has been used at second, third, leftfield, in relief out of the bullpen, and this season we may see him at a new position.

Thomas talks about that new position and the outlook for the 2010 season as the team approaches the end of fall practice culminating in the inter-squad World Series this coming week.

Can you tell us about your summer, where you played and how things went?

"I played in the Valley League in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We traveled to ten towns in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a very good league. I would compare it to the North Woods League. The pitching was pretty stout. I ran into a couple of pitchers from the ACC up there. I played third base, second base, and closed some. Every other day I either set up or closed. As far as positions I played second and third but didn't catch."

I know going into the fall finding a backup catcher was a concern. You and Matt Skole have been working behind the plate. How has that been going?

"It's going good so far. I'm really embracing it. Growing up I caught until I was about twelve or thirteen years old. Then, I decided to go to middle infield and to pitch. Catching is really fun. I like being involved in every play. I really trying to work hard and get there early every day and get better so that when my number is called I'll be ready to help the team out."

Have you spent much time behind the plate this fall?

"Yeah, I've spent a lot of time back there. Usually every day in inter-squad I'm catching. I haven't played much third in inter-squad so I'd say I've spent about ninety percent of the time catching."

Was there anything you were working on this summer that you were trying to improve?

"I was working on the mental approach to hitting. I had a talk with one of the older guys, Luke Murton, last year. I asked him what he thought about me as a hitter and where I could improve because I respect him a lot as a hitter. He had a lot to say. He thought I could show some improvement with hitting fastballs early in the count as opposed to getting behind in the count and having to battle back. He gave me a good question. He said why can't you hit a fast ball? I said that I could never figure it out. It turned out that I was taking too big of hacks and having to fight back in the count rather than sitting on my pitch. I basically worked on the mental approach to the game and what to think about before getting into the box. "

What are the team's expectations going into the season?

"I think we have a really good shot this year. Our pitchers are great. I don't think our bullpen will be a problem this year at all. We have really strong starters with Deck (McGuire), Brandon Cumpton, and either Jed Bradley or Mark Pope. We have some strong freshmen with (Luke) Bard, (Ben) McKinney, and (Clay) Dalton. We have Andrew Robinson, Zach Brewster, and Kevin Jacob on the tail end of things. I think that will be great. We'll have really stout pitching. We've always been known as a good hitting team so we'll be able to step up to the plate."

What are your personal expectations?

"I'm really looking forward to hitting. I know I'll be able to help out some behind the plate if something happens to Cole (Leonida), which I hope not or maybe a midweek game or maybe if I get lucky and work hard enough I'll get a shot at maybe a Sunday or Saturday start. I say it will be a lot like last year being the designated hitter and getting in the mix. As long as I'm out there I'm happy. I just want to contribute."

Have the coaches talked to you about what their plans are for you?

"No, I've occasionally asked Coach Bryan Prince "what do you think I'm going to do this year?" He said you know you're going to hit. That's basically what he said. You're just going to have to focus on that and everything else will work out if you hit. I feel like I can play any position in the lineup."

Are they going to make a decision between you and Matt as to who the backup is going to be?

"I think it's probably something understood. I think Matt's our third baseman which leaves me to be the catcher. I think if he's not playing third I'd be the next guy. I hope so. I think it's understood that he's going to be our guy at third which leaves me to be the backup catcher. He understands that he's the third baseman so I've put more time into catching than he does."

We have most of the starters back this coming year except for possibly the outfield. How is that shaping up?

"It's looking great. Chase Burnette is just swinging the bat. He looks real comfortable. He's going to put up some power numbers this year without a doubt. Jay Dantzler has seniority for sure. I think he's going to do really well this year maybe hitting in the two slot behind Jeff Rowland or whatever it takes. I think he's going to do a really good job out there. He looks really good so far. We have the young Brandon Thomas. He's a good athlete. He hits from both sides of the plate which is an upside."

Will your role as a pitcher be to come in and face one or two batters in a situational role?

"I think so. Wherever it takes me is fine. If Coach (Danny) Hall feels I'd be a good matchup late in the game, when we need a big out, maybe he'd give me a shot there. I'm not going to be in a closing situation because we have so much pitching. I think I'll be more of a spot guy if I throw at all."

With the World Series starting Monday, I guess you'll be behind the plate for one of the teams?

"I'll definitely be back there behind the plate for one of the teams. I told Coach Hall that I'm ready to go. Cole and I will be behind the plate for the two teams."

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