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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Walking the walk

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+took+on+the+Arizona+State+Sun+Devils+in+a+Pacific+10+Conference+baseball+game+Tuesday%2C+April+5%2C+2011%2C+at+Frank+Sancet+Stadium+in+Tucson%2C+Ariz.+Arizona+State+won+10-5.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats took on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a Pacific 10 Conference baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at Frank Sancet Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona State won 10-5.

No one foresaw Arizona center fielder Joey Rickard getting off to the start he has in 2011. Not even himself.

“”I never even thought about leading the country (in hits),”” Rickard said. “”I’ve been fortunate.””

Rickard has led all of college baseball in hits (61) for nearly his entire sophomore season, thanks in large part to his mindset in practice, which focuses on getting better day-in and day-out in batting practice instead of getting caught up in a home run contest.

“”It’s been pounded into my head to have the same approach since high school,”” said Rickard, a Las Vegas native. “”Just try to work on the little things.””

Arizona head coach Andy Lopez also attributes much of Rickard’s success to how he handles himself on the practice field.

“”There’s certain guys that practice the right way, and some that practice the easy way,”” Lopez said. “”I’m not going to predict he was going to lead the nation in hits, but I thought he was going to be a good player. Leading the nation in hits, that’s pretty impressive. But if you would have said top-5 or top-10, I would have said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.'””

Rickard’s work in the batting cages isn’t the only reason for his success. His blazing speed has lent his batting average a helping hand more than once this season, not that that’s a surprise to anyone.

He gained 10 pounds of muscle after spending the summer working out with about 10 teammates, lifting weights and hitting in the batting cages almost daily.

“”Surrounded by this group, you’re pretty much the outcast if you’re not doing your work,”” said Rickard, who is also a fixture in the group of players taking early batting practice each day.

Rickard isn’t only ahead of the game practice situations. He puts the team first during his in-game at-bats, giving his teammates another reason to respect him.

“”He really motivates everyone starting off the lineup with great at-bats,”” said outfielder Rob Refsnyder, who is also Rickard’s housemate. “”He just exudes confidence. It’s not about the hits for him — it’s about seeing pitches for the rest of the lineup. Every day, it seems like he has multiple hits. He’s always on first, and he’s always scoring.””

Scoring is something that Rickard has done a lot of, but it’s not his only specialty. He’s tied for third on the team in runs (32), leads the team in batting average (.409) and total bases (79), and has stolen 10 bases, good for second on the team.

Rickard can flash the leather, too. He leads the team in outfield assists with three, and has made only two errors while starting all 36 of Arizona’s games.

He’s also healthy for the first time since last year. Rickard battled a nagging groin injury for most of his freshman season, but was still able to garner Pacific 10 Conference Honorable Mention in 2010.

Although Rickard’s practice regiment may seem exhausting, he doesn’t see it changing anytime soon.

“”So far,”” he said, “”it’s worked pretty well.””

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