Still only 22 and with many years in front of him, Rick – a fourth round draft pick out of high school in 2002 – is able to point to a number of things which may have led to his disappointing campaign this past season.
We'll let him explain.
"Just stuff getting into my head," said Rick, who batted .197 in 77 games. "Then I would try changing my approach and changing too many things all at one time when I wouldn't get a hit for a few days."
Rick's solution to such a disappointing (not to mention surprising) year is pretty much like that of a lot of people. He began to warm up in the final month and, coupled with a fine season defensively, he plans to build on the positives heading into next season.
"I changed my stance during that final week of the season and put together a seven-game hitting streak," Rick said. "It's something to take into next season. I wish our team could have made the playoffs, but I feel I ended on a strong note and can take it into Spring Training."
Behind the plate, Rick committed three errors in over 475 chances and was charged with five passed balls. He roomed with starting pitcher Matt Weber on road games this year and spent the majority of his offseason following 2004 working primarily on defense instead of offense.
Statistically speaking, Rick's numbers behind the plate exceeded that of teammate Bernard's and several other catching prospects within the organization.
"Rooming with Matt really helped my defense a lot," said Rick. "Even when we were at home, I stayed with a lot of pitchers at our apartment. After the games, we'd go back home and talk strategy after strategy. Then the next day, I'd remember what we talked about the night before and apply to my defense."
With the offseason now at hand, Rick won't be losing sight of baseball anytime soon. His father, Sam Rick, is the head coach at St. John's River Community College in Palatka, Fla., the Rick family's hometown. Alan helps his father with several coaching aspects and also does workouts with the team on the field each year.
Rick didn't get the invitation to the Cubs' Instructional League in Arizona this season, but that's all well and good with him.
"We talked it over and I was told to take the rest of the year off," Rick said. "Jeff Huson (Cubs Roving Infield Instructor) said that I should try to forget about this year as soon as possible and that's what I plan on doing."
When next year finally does roll in, Rick hopes to get the call up to Daytona that he was hoping for this past season. The spot was left open to Tony Richie, over 18 months older than Rick and drafted with a fourth round pick from Florida State the year after Rick was. Richie spent last season in extended spring training and with the short-season Boise Hawks, but bypassed a stint at Peoria and went straight to Daytona. Now, he could be headed to Double-A at the start of 2006.
As for Rick, the left-handed hitting catcher admits disappointment set in at first when he learned he'd be heading back to the Midwest League this past spring.
"It was disappointing, but I knew I'd go to Peoria and have a chance to start," said Rick, who split playing time behind the plate at Lansing in 2004 with Jake Fox. "I also realized that Tony is a little older than me. I think another reason was that Tony was starting a lot in Spring Training. There weren't any hard feelings and I knew if someone happened to get injured, I'd be the person to get called up."
"You always want to move up, especially after two years in the same league so I hope I'll be there (Daytona) next year," Rick continued. "I want to forget about this year as soon as possible."