The Best-Laid Plans Delayed for Mike Nixon

For Mike Nixon 2005 did not go at all the way it was supposed to. "You come up with a plan, put it in place and then it changes because of organizational needs," he says with a resigned sigh.

It took a $1 million contract to lure Mike away from football where he had been the Gatorade high school player of the year in Arizona in 2002. Drafted in the third round he was for awhile the prime catching candidate in the organization. But when Russell Martin came on in rare style and Dioner Navarro was obtained in a trade, Plan B went into effect. At least, for a time.

That scheme placed Mike in the outfield where he had played some before. Although he had his mechanical difficulties as a catcher, mostly in the throwing department, he has always displayed promise as a hitter with long ball potential, So the move was made at Vero Beach at the beginning of the season. Then came those "organizational needs."

Backup catcher Paul Bako went out for the year in L.A. so Mike Rose was promoted from Las Vegas where he had been sharing duties with Navarro. It was decided to replace him with Nixon, who was abruptly a catcher again. However, only as a reserve behind Navarro.

The leap from high A to AAA is a considerable one. Not surprisingly, Mike's performance at the plate suffered. "There are two reasons for that," he explains. "Of course the pitching is stronger up there but also I'm used to playing every day and in Vegas I would sit for a week, then maybe get in one game. That will completely mess up your timing."

All things considered he didn't fare all that badly with the 51's, batting .226 with two homers. Still, he spent most of his time warming up pitchers in the bullpen for even when Navarro was promoted to L.A., Rose came back down and did most of the receiving.

In the final weeks with Vegas going nowhere but down Mike was moved again, this time to Jacksonville to take over for Eric Langill, who had left the team to catch for Team Canada in World Cup competition. Of course, here, too, he was only a reserve for Martin was having an All-Star year for the Suns. It was nice moving from a celler-dweller to a pennant winner although his playing time was sporadic.

Now he's in the Instructional League trying to make up for lost time. He's listed as a catcher on the roster but plans are to play him in the outfield again and add first base to his resume as well. This would be Plan C.

"I just want to get on the field and play," says Mike.

By the way, he almost got some consolation Saturday- from football. Although he had accepted a scholarship to UCLA, Mike's very much an Arizona State fan. After all, he lives only a short distance from the campus and is a regular at their games when he's home. Naturally, he was watching TV as the Sun Devils took on mighty USC.

"They started strong," he says ruefully," But just couldn't stay up with them ."

In football, he's strictly a spectator now. In baseball, he's hopefully had enough of watching other people play and get his game going again.