Getting To Know: Tom Everidge, 1B

Like many players in the Oakland A's organization, Tom Everidge is a California native. So he can be excused if he finds it strange to see his breath while playing baseball. Everidge, who is playing for Kane County this season, is getting his first taste of Midwestern baseball this spring and it has been a chilling experience, literally. "It has definitely been colder here then I am used to," said Everidge with a laugh.

Tom Everidge was drafted by the A's in the 10th round of the 2004 draft, which was a high pick, considering that Everidge played his collegiate ball at Division II Sonoma State University. However, Everidge grabbed the attention of the A's scouts with an outstanding senior season that saw him hit .353 with 19 homeruns and 69 RBI in only 65 games. He also had a .450 on-base percentage.

It was a thrill for Everidge to be drafted by Oakland, as he and his Seawolves teammates followed the A's from nearby Sonoma, often driving down to the Coliseum on Wednesdays for the A's "Dollar Wednesdays" promotion. He was part of a strong Seawolves team that produced four draft picks in the 2004 class. Everidge signed with the A's and was immediately sent to short-season A Vancouver. Despite competing against players from Division I collegiate powerhouses like Miami, Texas and Fullerton, Everidge didn't think that he was at any disadvantage during his first season as a professional.

"I didn't feel like it was much different for me to come into short-season from a smaller college program except that some of the other guys from bigger programs had faced each other before," said Everidge.

Everidge had a solid season for Vancouver, hitting .272 and driving in 46 runs. However, he struggled to find his power stroke while with the Canadians, as he slugged at only a .378 clip. Everidge admits that his first taste of professional baseball was educational.

"It was a learning experience. I had never played that many games in a row before. You are used to dominating at the plate and you have to learn to deal with failure for the first time. It teaches you some things and I definitely grew from the experience," Everidge said.

After the 2004 season wound down, Everidge returned home to California to prepare for the next season. He spent the winter following an off-season conditioning program that was provided to him and the rest of the A's minor leaguers through a website set-up by strength coaches within the A's organization.

After a productive spring training, Everidge was assigned to the low-A Kane County Cougars. He began the season as the Cougars only true first baseman and was playing every day. However, in early May, first baseman Eddie Kim (who played with the Cougars in 2004) joined the team to share time with Everidge at first. Despite the competition for starts, Everidge and Kim have worked well together.

"I wasn't sure if it would be weird if we were competing for playing time, but Eddie has been really great and is a really nice guy," Everidge said. "It has been beneficial to have another right-handed fielding first baseman to take groundballs with so that we can work on the same things together."

Everidge has been putting a lot of time into improving his defense. He says that the work he puts in with the glove is one of the biggest changes in his game from the collegiate level to the pros.

"There is a big difference in how I take pride in my defense from college to the pros," Everidge said. "In college, you are not as worried about your defense, but now I take great pride in getting better as a fielder."

That work has paid off, as Everidge has committed only three errors in 44 games this season. Offensively, like many of the Cougars, Everidge has struggled out of the gate. He is hitting .234 with four homers and 19 RBI on the year. Everidge hit his fourth homer on Thursday in the Cougars 10-8 loss to West Michigan. Despite the poor numbers, Everidge believes that he has grown as a hitter since his rookie season at Vancouver last year.

"I feel that my approach has really improved this season. Now I'm looking to swing at only at good pitches and I am getting myself into good hitting counts. I'm just looking to be consistent with my swing," Everidge said.

Everidge is hardly the only Cougar whose offensive numbers have been down this season. As a team, the Cougars are hitting only .236. The cold weather may be a factor in the Cougars' poor start offensively. Offense is down throughout the Midwest League, as only four of the 14 Midwest League teams are hitting above .255. The Cougars have been scoring more over the past two weeks, and Everidge sees a turn-around on the horizon for the entire Cougars' line-up.

"We've had our ups and downs this season but we've been playing better lately," Everidge said. "Things are definitely looking up for us."

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