Rickles Thankful to be Back
Baseball has been the center of Nick Rickles’ life for many years, but on May 5, 2014, he faced the very real possibility that the game would be taken away from him. The strong-armed catcher had surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a torn labrum. The surgery involved 10-12 months of recovery time and came with no guarantee that he would regain the arm strength that made him an intriguing prospect.
Rickles set out on a grueling rehab program to get back on the field. He says his time away from the game left him with a new appreciation of how much he loves playing baseball.
“The biggest thing that I learned was not to worry about the things I couldn’t control,” Rickles said. “I couldn’t control getting hurt. Looking back on my career, just little things I got angry about or certain at-bats that I took for granted that I would never do again. Even little workouts here that I used to take for granted, but not anymore. It’s awesome being back on the field.”
Although not yet a full year removed from his surgery, Rickles is optimistic that he will be able to break camp with an affiliate – or at least join one soon after the regular season starts.
“I would say arm-wise, I feel stronger than I was before,” Rickles said. “My times have been better than they have ever been. I have caught maybe six or seven games and my arm has felt great. The end of this week, I have two sevens [seven-inning outings] and one nine [inning outing] and then I am done with my progression. So hopefully I can break on time.”
While throwing is the area of his game most directly impacted by the surgery, Rickles said it took awhile for his timing to come back at the plate after missing an entire season.“They have been awesome with getting me in there and getting some live ABs. Finally this week I would say that I am feeling back to where I should be,” Rickles said.
Rickles has played most of the spring on the High-A Stockton roster. He spent the majority of the 2012 and 2013 seasons at the Low-A level and was slated to go to High-A before he was injured last spring. In 2013, Rickles threw out 42% of would-be base-stealers in the Midwest League.
Rickles is keeping his goals simple for the 2015 season.
“I still have a number of rehab things that I have to take care of every day just to regain the strength in my shoulder,” Rickles said. “So that’s the number one goal for this year is just to stay healthy.”
Everidge Enjoying Life as a Coach
His familiar voice is hard to miss on the fields of Fitch Park. Always a fan favorite because of his big-time power and even bigger personality, Tommy Everidge is back in the green-and-gold. The A’s 2004 10th-round pick spent seven seasons in the A’s system, reaching the big leagues for 24 games in 2009. Everidge last played a game as part of the A’s organization in 2010, but he rejoined the A’s family for the 2014 season as a hitting coach for the A’s short-season affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters.
Everidge played two seasons in the independent Atlantic League in 2011 and 2012 before retiring from his playing days. He spent 2013 in the “real world” working in loans. Everidge jumped at the chance to return to baseball when the A’s came calling last year.
“I like this a lot better,” Everidge said. “We are in the business of helping people here and I was helping people there, but not everyone is as good of a person over there. I definitely like this job better.”
Everidge worked with several of the A’s rising young prospects last season as the Lake Monsters’ hitting coach, including shortstop Yairo Munoz and outfielder J.P. Sportman. He feels even better prepared for coaching this spring now that he has a full season under his belt.
“The first year you are so excited and are learning new things,” Everidge said. “The second year you know what to expect. You don’t feel you are in so much of a fog. You feel better equipped to help the players with what they need.”
Everidge played at every level of affiliated baseball – except for Rookie ball – during his career, so he has plenty of experience he can share with A’s prospects. He enjoys being in the role of teacher, especially to younger players just getting their feet wet in professional baseball.
“You feel like more of a mentor and you get to teach them how to go about the Oakland way and the professional way,” Everidge said. “They are coming from high school or college and someone has always dictated to them what they should do. You are giving them the responsibility to be themselves. You just monitor that.”
Everidge enjoyed his first season in Burlington, Vermont, and he is looking forward to returning with the Lake Monsters in June.
“Vermont was awesome,” Everidge said. “I really liked it up there. It is a beautiful city, great people to work with.”
Everidge will be returning to Vermont with a new coaching staff. Lake Monsters’ 2014 manager David Newhan left the organization this off-season and pitching coach Steve Connelly moved up to Low-A Beloit. In their place will be manager Aaron Nieckula and pitching coach Carlos Chavez. Nieckula was Everidge’s manager in 2005 with Kane County.
Everidge isn’t the only former A’s farmhand from the 2000s return recently as a coach in the system. Low-A Beloit hitting coach Lloyd Turner was a teammate of Everidge’s on several occasions while they were both playing in the A’s system. Everidge and Turner also squared off against each other in Atlantic League games in 2011 and 2012. Everidge says the two talk regularly.“We bonded immediately and we just try to help each other out whenever we can,” Everidge said.