Friday, July 6, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs catcher Nick Rickles

Nick Rickles, image- Jay Floyd
Backstop Nick Rickles has been a key contributor this season for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, not only at the plate, but also by helping to lead a promising pitching staff.

Through 42 games, the 28-year-old righty hitter sports a .239 average with five home runs and 16 RBI.

In his pro career, Rickles has played in the Athletics and Nationals organizations.  He joined the Phillies last season as part of a trade from the Nats.

Last week I talked with Rickles about a pair of IronPigs All-Star hurlers, being a new father, his hockey fandom, a particular big name NBA standout and more.  Read ahead for that full interview...


-Hey, how's fatherhood for ya?

So far so good.  Sleep's kind of a reward at this point, but at the same time it's all new, so there's really no patterns.  She's five months old now.  You know, my wife's been the back bone for sure.  She's definitely taken the lead in (parenting), which allows me to focus on the field.

-Are your wife and daughter staying around here, in Allentown, with you so you can be with them as much as possible?

Yeah, they're up here now for the rest of the year.  Originally, we weren't going to do it.  But just, it didn't take.  I was getting the pictures every day and I wanted to be there, then obviously, my wife wants me around for the help too so she can get sleep when she can.  So, yeah, they're gonna be up here in Lehigh Valley for the rest of the year.

-Cool.  You've got a Golden Knights hat on.  Are you a full supporter?

Yeah!  I've got a jersey made for them.  "Vegas Born" on the back for their slogan..  Unfortunately, it didn't get in till after the Stanley Cup was over.  But, it's cool seeing how much love and support Vegas has given them and how much they've given Vegas.  Especially, with the times we dealt with over the off-season, so we're looking forward to next year.

-Is that home for you?

Yeah, I've lived out there for two years. My wife's lived out there he whole life.  I'll be back there again this off-season.

-Great.  You've enjoyed some nice success here with the IronPigs this season.  Can you share some thoughts on your season thus far and International League competition?

It's been great.  I spent some time here last year, after some time with the Nationals the year before that and baseball is baseball, no matter where you're at.  The team we're on has been phenomenal this year.  We have a great club with great coaches.  So, I'm looking forward to seeing how the second half ends up.

-I got to see you a little bit with Reading last year and you switched organization mid-season, then changed staffs with the promotion from there to here.  How swiftly are you able to adapt to or learn a new system, a new staff...that sort of thing?

Spring training kind of gets you ready for that.  You go in there with 50-plus guys in the clubhouse and you've got to get to know everybody pretty quick.  And being around-- and I've been around since 2011-- so I knew Harold Martinez and a few of the other guys from playing against them, so once I got in the clubhouse, we just kind of hit the ground running and went from there.  Thankfully, I was able to come up to Lehigh Valley at the end of the year last year.

-I talked to Cole Irvin and he's had a great season.  He was giving so much credit for his success to both you and Logan Moore, his catchers.  What does that mean to you to have an All-Star crediting you with his results?

He's so well prepared that it takes a lot off of our shoulders.  So, going in to a game, we have what our preparation would be and then he has his.  So when you put those two preparations together, it allows us to hit it off and you can see the success is transitioning onto the field as well.

-Cool.  You've got a couple new guys joining the team this week with Ranger Suarez and Tyler Gilbert joining the IronPigs' pitching staff.  Is it easy for you when guys come up to build a rapport after having some familiarity from spring training?

Yeah, especially in spring training, you know, they do a few different groups where we have different guys rotate in.  Even if it's one time, being able to catch a guy's bullpen you have a pretty good idea of what his stuff looks like and it's good that (they're) able to join us halfway through the year. 

-Enyel De Los Santos is another All-Star on this team.  He's been remarkable on the mound for this team all season.  What can you share about him?

His pace has been great.  He's got four pitches that he can command and throw at any time and that's huge.  We always talk about being in rhythm.  He doesn't shake off very much.  Same with game-planning.  We've been on the same page so much that we kind of just roll through innings.  It helps keep his pitch count down low, helps keep him fresh.  And as you can see, same as Cole, being an All-Star, the success has really translated on the field as well.  

-You mention game-planning and I've seen heat maps in the dugouts and things like that.  What's the difference, if any, this year with the new regime up above versus what you saw here last year?

You know, really, just understanding the shifts and how to pitch to them.   It's been great, but we had very similar information at this level provided to us last year and I think being able to spend a full year in this organization and seeing how spring training is run has really helped me understand what they're trying to do with the pitchers and how they want to call a game.  And (Dave Lundquist), our pitching coach, has been really, really great with communicating with us what he wants to see on a daily basis and we've been able to execute that on the field.  

-How does this place compare to other venues, other facilities, other fan bases that you've played in front of or played at?

This, you know, honestly this is probably one of my favorite places that I've played at in the minor leagues.  The fans are great.  They do great promotions.  And our G.M. really has a great idea of what we need as players to be able to succeed on the field.  And even tonight- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it doesn't matter.  We get a pretty good (crowd), which is great for us to come to the park to play in front of.

-You mention promotions and the promotion tonight involves "hashtagging" LeBron James and trying to recruit him to join the IronPigs as a free agent.  What position do you think LeBron could has success with on the baseball field?

I have to go with first base.  He's so tall, he'd be a great target to throw to.  Maybe even get on the mound a little bit.  Having that kind of presence out there might intimidate a few guys.  I've never seen him throw a baseball, but I've seen him throw a basketball from one end of the court to the other to Dwyane Wade so I'm sure he'd be able to do it.

-Have you ever seen him play?

Yeah, I saw him play in Miami when he was there with Dwyane Wade and then when we were on the road this year, we saw him play there in the playoffs in Boston against the Celtics...

-You were one of the guys there...

Yeah, me Cole, Dean (Anna) and (Dylan) Cozens, we all ended up going to the game, which was awesome.  So we got to see him play there too.

-Dylan Cozens kind of got some attention online, posting video of himself trolling Boston fans.  Philly fans aren't the most fond of Boston after the Celtics knocked the 76ers out of the playoffs, so Cozens got some love from that.  Were you doing a little of that?

Being a little out of my element,, I wasn't really a fan of either team, so I really didn't rooting for any of them.  But, to comment on Dylan, he's more of an instigator than anything else, so he does like LeBron, so I'll give him the credit there, but once he gets into the center of attention, he is a funny guy.  He likes to think he's funny also.  So, seeing him in that atmosphere was pretty entertaining for us and obviously for some of the Cavs fans, as you can see in some of the videos.
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