Everidge Making A Splash Under The Radar

First baseman Tom Everidge may not get a lot of press as a former 10th round draft choice from a Division II college program, but he shouldn't be overlooked. The slugging right-hander quietly posted the highest OPS of any Kane County Cougar regular and looks poised to continue his climb through the Oakland A's minor league system in 2006. We caught up with Everidge in the off-season to get his thoughts on his first full professional campaign and to see what his outlook is for the upcoming year.

When we last caught up with Tom Everidge in early June, he was just coming out of an early-season slump that saw him hit only .234 with four homers and 19 runs batted in through the first six weeks of the season. At the time, he felt that it was only a matter of time before his offensive production picked up. He pointed to his improved approach at the plate as the main reason that he was certain that he'd start piling up the numbers soon. He was right.

Everidge was arguably the Kane County Cougars' most consistent offensive performer for the remainder of the season and his end-of-the-season stat line reflects that up-tick in production. By the final game of the year, Everidge had raised his BA to .279, his OBP to .370 and his OPS to that team-leading 852. Everidge also smacked 14 homers in 365 at-bats (1:26 AB) and drove-in 66 runs, which was the second highest total on the team. And, for good measure, Everidge hit for the cycle on June 26. So how did Everidge drag himself out of the depths of his early season struggles? He says it was all about believing in the abilities that allowed him to hit .353 with 19 homers during his senior season at Sonoma State.

"To break out of the slump I just had to start trusting myself again and I had to have the confidence that I could hit at this level. Once I started hitting again, I really felt a lot more comfortable at the plate," Everidge said.

And, like every good A's farmhand, Everidge pointed to his approach at the plate as a big factor in his renaissance.

"I felt like my plate discipline really improved in 2005. It was something that I really tried to work on in the off-season and I think it really started to translate into the games this season. I was seeing the ball better by the end of the year and picking good pitches to swing at," Everidge said.

Everidge worked throughout the season with the Cougar coaching staff on improving his defense at first. He finished the season with nine errors and feels that he has made improvements with his footwork, but that he still has work to do. He is devoting a portion of his off-season workout to fielding drills.

"I think my defense has been making gradual improvements. I know that the higher you get in professional baseball, the more emphasis that they put on being consistent on defense, so I want to get as consistent as possible. I have been taking groundballs everyday and have been working on taking direct routes to the ball and being fluid around the bag. I still am working on it, but I think I've made improvements," Everidge said.

The Cougars carried two first basemen on their roster for much of the season (Everidge and fellow prospect Eddie Kim), so Everidge appeared in a number of games as the Cougars' designated hitter, something he had done little of during his career. Players such as Jason Giambi have discussed the difficulty they have experienced keeping themselves in the game and ready to hit as a DH. Everidge said it took him some time to adjust to the DH role, as well.

"I definitely prefer to be in the field [rather than at DH] because it is easier to stay involved in the game. You have to work harder to stay focused on the game and loose in-between at-bats when you are DHing," Everidge said.

"If you are used to playing in the field, you can stiffen up on the bench while you are waiting to hit. Like with everything, though, I got more used to it the more I did it and it got easier," Everidge said.

Everidge was pleased with the way that the 2005 season ended, and he is eager to take the next step up the ladder in the A's organization.

"You never really know what [the organization] is thinking about where you'll start next season, so all I am focused on is being ready to go wherever they send me," Everidge said.

"As long as I keep moving up, I'll be happy. My goal is to move up one level a year and if I can move up two levels [in a year], all the better."

This off-season Everidge is back home in Sonoma, CA, where he is working out regularly at his alma mater. He has been spending a lot of time at the batting cages and has enlisted the advice of his former coaches at Sonoma State to keep his swing in check.

"Sometimes it can be hard to know what you are doing right or wrong when you are hitting alone. It's always a little easier to have someone there looking at your swing when you are in the cage to give you some feedback, especially since they know my swing so well," Everidge said.

Everidge is also devoting some time this off-season working on what could be a career after his leaves baseball. He has been spending time at a gym called Winning Edge, working as a personal trainer for high school and collegiate athletes. However, Everidge, who will turn 23 next April, shouldn't need to focus on another career anytime soon.

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