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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Junior is driving force for baseball

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Ginny Polin
Ginny Polin / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs Rice

While its seven returning starters will play a vital role for the Arizona baseball team as the season begins, perhaps no one will get the team going like junior outfielder Joey Rickard.

“He’s just a really good player,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “The way you really appreciate Joey is if you see him in practice every day. He competes, he does things that makes coaching a very easy thing for us.”

Last season, Rickard exploded offensively and was named a first team All-Pac-10 selection. He also led the nation in batting average for most of the season.

Rickard finished off the 2011 campaign hitting .347, fifth best in the Pac-10 Conference, and his 86 hits led the Wildcats and put him second in the Pac-10.

Lopez said that, with numbers like last year, Rickard would have very few adjustments to make coming into this year. But the junior from Las Vegas wasn’t so sure.

“There’s always a way to improve,” Rickard said. “I started off really hot last year, but I’d just like to be more consistent this year, maybe keep it through the whole season.”

Lopez said he uses Rickard as a motivational tool for the entire team to follow. Every two or three weeks, he tells a few of his players to just watch Rickard, see what he’s doing and learn from him.

His dedication is always palpable, especially during practice situations.

“There’s days when we’re doing base running drills and Rickard will slide into third base,” Lopez said. “He doesn’t need to do that, but it’s just who he is.”

Rickard said he doesn’t think about his enthusiasm, it just comes as a natural byproduct of his love for the game.

“I don’t do it for any reason,” Rickard said. “That’s just the way I play, it’s a good way to get everybody into it, and keeps everyone going smoothly.”

Rickard’s dedication also fuels his teammates.

“He definitely has a huge role,” preseason All-American shortstop Alex Mejia said. “Obviously having those seven guys come back is definitely reassuring, but Rickard is our lead off guy and I feel like he’ll set the tone early.”

For Rickard, the key throughout his career has been to try and maintain his attitude, especially when things aren’t going his way, and he’s trying to show that to his younger teammates.

“It’s pretty tough to keep the same approach day in and day out,” he said. “You go through slumps, you go through bad streaks, but we’re just trying to keep our poise and hopefully the younger guys will learn from that.”

As far as what Rickard needs to do when the season starts on Friday, Lopez said there’s just one thing: “He just needs to be Joey Rickard. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, and he’s a lot more physical. He just needs to be Joey Rickard.”

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