Spring Training Q&A: Alan Rick

<B>MESA, Ariz.</B> - Left-handed hitting catcher Alan Rick received a good amount of playing time last season for Class-A Lansing. Rick, a fourth round pick out of high school in 2002, recently talked to Inside The Ivy about his spring and a key adjustment he's made to his approach at the plate.

Inside The Ivy: Alan, give us an update on how you're progressing so far this spring.

Alan Rick: I feel really good. I came back into Spring Training a little heavier in weight than I wanted to be. But I've started to mature off the field and become more of a straight-ball hitter on the field.

Inside The Ivy: Looking at the numbers, we see you've struck out in about 25 percent of your at-bats the last two seasons. Does this concern you, and what are some of the things you've been working on to improve that?

Alan Rick: It really did concern me. I want to find a way to cut down on the strikeouts, such as putting the ball in play a little more and cutting down my swings early in the count. I used to be a pull hitter; now I don't try to pull the outside pitch and just go with it instead. I think that's going to cut down on the strikeouts, because it's going to allow me to put the ball in play more. I have a different philosophy at the plate now, so I'm really pleased.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us a little about your background.

Alan Rick: I come from a small town called Palatka, Fla. Just take my word—it's a small town! There are some nice, old country people there. You drive down the road and may not know everyone, but you wave at them. We probably had about 20 people at every baseball game, and they were mostly all parents. All you do is hunt, fish, go four-wheeling and stay out of trouble.

Inside The Ivy: You were pretty solid behind the plate last year. Was it difficult having to adjust to sharing a role you had always sort of held down on your own until last season?

Alan Rick: Yeah, it was a little tough. Like you said, I had always been a starter most everywhere I'd gone. I was a young guy and I still got to DH, so I really wasn't too mad since I was still getting my at-bats. Hopefully if I go to Daytona, Peoria or wherever this year, I'll be getting a few more at-bats and starts behind the plate.

Inside The Ivy: Statistically, left-handed batters have always hit better against right-handed pitchers, but you were the exception to the rule last year. What do you attribute to that?

Alan Rick: You know, I don't know what it is. I used to switch hit when I was in high school, but in my junior and senior years, I decided to hit only left-handed and it came natural to me. Batting right-handed, you have sort of a tendency to pull the ball.

Inside The Ivy: It seemed when the calendar reached June, you really started to pick things up and get hot. Was there any reason for the slow start?

Alan Rick: I don't know if I'm not a cold weather guy or what. It's not like I wasn't hitting the ball hard those first two months; I just wasn't getting the breaks. I guess when the weather warmed up, I warmed up!

Inside The Ivy: What are some of the things you learned last season at Lansing in your first year of full-season ball that makes you a better catcher?

Alan Rick: Listening to Mike Micucci (hitting coach) helped me a lot. It's a long season and I was young, so he'd work with me if I had a bad night. As catchers, though, we're more worried about the pitchers. It's all about being their best friend and not worrying so much about hitting; hitting comes second. I had several off days last year, so I was always working on something even when I wasn't starting.

Inside The Ivy: Talk to us a little about your offseason and some of the things you did to stay in shape.

Alan Rick: Well, I was at instructionals in Arizona in October. I took some time off to mostly hang out with my buddies and parents, and do a little fishing. I usually don't start hitting until December, and I really wanted to start hitting to the opposite field. When January came, I started hitting even more. I also did my catching and got a lot of footwork in.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us a little about getting an at-bat with the major league squad earlier this week.

Alan Rick: Oh, I was so nervous when I got the call telling me I was going to go in. Don't get me wrong; it was really great. I was nervous being up there with all of those people watching me on ESPN, but it was really nice. The big leaguers were all so nice to me. They'd say, "Hey, if you need anything, just tell me." It's funny; the first couple of innings I was sitting in the dugout just picking their brains. It's fun talking to the guys. They know you're a minor leaguer and they make you feel just like you're one of them.

Rick batted .256 in 84 games with Lansing a year ago. He made 58 starts behind the plate and finished with nine home runs and 36 RBI. Rick turned 21 last September.

Northsiders Report Top Stories