A Confident Rickles Producing For Snappers

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - A change in mindset and increased playing time have allowed Beloit Snappers' catcher Nick Rickles to find his comfort zone at the plate. That has led to big results for the Oakland A's 2011 14th-round pick.

A change to his approach at the plate, as well as more frequent at-bats as the starting catcher, have helped Beloit Snappers catcher Nick Rickles turn it around in his second full season at Low-A.

A 14th-round selection by the Oakland A's in the 2011 draft, Rickles suffered through a disappointing 2012 at Low-A Burlington and then proceeded to struggle through his first two months of Midwest League action this year.

"A lot of it had to do with my mental game last year," Rickles said. "It was my first full season, so I had a lot to prepare for and I caught a lot. I knew what to expect coming in this year.

"When I failed last year, my mental stability wasn't what it should have been. I'm glad it happened early in my career, so I learned how to fail. Starting off kind of slow this year helped me get through that and still put together a good year."

Rickles turned the corner once he changed his approach at the plate and started getting more frequent at-bats after Bruce Maxwell was summoned to Stockton.

After posting nearly identical averages of .174 in April and May and .171 in June, Rickles rebounded in a big way in July with a slashline of .400/.416/.624. As a result, he was named the organization's player of the month by OaklandClubhouse.

"From a hitting standpoint, [Maxwell's promotion] kind of helped," Rickles said. "Catching is pretty easy to stay on your game, because we have bullpens every day and there's no days off. Seeing live at-bats every day and hitting more often has helped out a lot.

"The hitting coach Casey [Myers] and I also took a new approach to hitting. We looked back on the stats and quality at-bats – it seemed to be with two strikes I'd have harder contact. We tried taking that approach at all times, making that zone a little smaller than what you have with two strikes. It's awesome to work at something and have results right away."

The approach is a much simpler one, and has led to more line drives out of Rickles as opposed to the occasional home run surrounded by less-than-stellar at-bats.

"He made a commitment to staying over the ball and started hitting line drives, taking what the pitcher gives him," Beloit manager Ryan Christensen said.

"He was trying to do too much there for a while. His BPs were like home-run derby, so we had a talk with him. His new approach carried over to the game and he started having some better results. And then, of course getting some consistent at-bats is never a bad thing for a player."

Rickles will close out the year with Beloit before heading home to West Palm Beach to work out this off-season. He'd like to carry over his success with a call-up to Stockton next spring.

"I just want to keep working on my approach to hitting," he said. "Now that I've found something I feel comfortable with, repetition is what you need. The more reps I can get to that approach will help for next season. What they were waiting for and what I've been waiting for was the offensive numbers to pick up. Going into next year, I'll keep my head up and control what I can control."

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