|photo by Mack Ade|
Catcher Mike Nickeas retired.
One of the nicest and most intelligent baseball players I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Nickeas attended college at Georgia Tech. He was selcted in the 5th round of the 2004 draft by Texas. In 2005, He batted .202 (49-242) with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs and 24 RBI in 68 games with Frisco in 2005. He also, hit .286 (6-21) with 1 double, 1 home run and 1 RBI with the rookie-level Arizona Rangers.
Nickeas was named the best defensive catcher in the Rangers' organization by Baseball America in 2005. In 2006, Nickeas appeared in 17 games with Bakersfield (A) of the California League this year, batting .297 (19-64) with 6 runs scored, 4 doubles and 6 RBI. Mike missed three weeks of action in May with a pulled hamstring before he was promoted to Frisco (AA) of the Texas League on May 28th. Nickeas hit .248 (28-113) with 15 runs scored, 7 doubles, 2 home runs, 15 RBI with 21 walks and 22 strikeouts in 39 contests with Frisco.
The Mets acquired Nickeas from Texas in exchange for OF Victor Diaz. He was assigned to the B-Mets after the trade and managed to get in 12 at bats before the season ended.
Nickeas is a fundamentally sound defender with average catch-and-throw skills and an athletic background. Born in Canada and raised in California, his English-born father was a professional soccer player. Despite his international background, Nickeas caught for Team USA last summer and as a prep player on the junior national team. He has average tools across the board, though he's a below-average runner. He struggled at the plate this season, with his average and slugging numbers down considerably from 2003. He isn't afraid to draw a walk, but scouts say he's been passive at the plate this season.
In January 2007, www.GothamBaseball.com surprisingly (IMO) listed Nickeas as the 10th top Mets prospect. Also in January, Rotoworld had him as the 15th top Mets prospect.
Nickeas started the 2007 season ‘extended’, but was transferred to Binghamton in late April (.271/.281/.278 in 212 at bats).
In September 2007, Nickeas was assigned to play in the Arizona Winter League (which is always a sign that the organization wants to invest more time and money in you)
7-11-10: - Mike hit his third home run of the season for Binghamton on Sunday. He’s been a .231 lifetime hitter going into this season, so his current .310 BA is a welcomed surprise for the 27-year old. Comments: I have become a very big fan of Nickeas, both as a player and a possible catching coach. He is a very intelligent human being who has been a great influence on players like Josh Thole. He also, by the way, has a great swing and is a very nice person He has always treated me with respect, which isn’t the norm for a Mets writer. I’m not convinced he will ever get a chance to start in Queens, but, if the pitchers had a say, he would. Reminds me of a young Mike DeFelice. This is the catcher you want to work with your prospects is AAA and AA.
My First Interview With Mike -
Mack: - This morning we're talking with a real live New York Met, catcher Mike Nickeas. Morning Mike, what have you been doing lately (he he..
Mike: - Hi Mack, just continuing to learn and appreciate the game.
Mack: - Okay, well, we'll ask you about that single up the middle off of Yovani Gallardo later on in the interview...
Let's go back to 2004 when you were a 5th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers, out of GT. What was that day like? .
Nickeas: - It was very exciting, I remember feeling like my name was never going to be called. I was sat in a hotel room with my parents and my wife (girlfriend at the time), and when my name was called we all stood up and screamed and hugged, it was very cool.
Mack: - You came to the Mets in a great deal for OF Victor Diaz in 2006. And, for the next three seasons you played primarily at the AAA and AA level. I've asked many of the pitchers who they would like to have them catch them and you and Mike DeFelice win that survey hands down. Do you credit a mentor for some of the catching skills you possess? .
Nickeas: - Being compared to Mike is a wonderful compliment, I'm fortunate enough to have played with and been coached by him. I've been so fortunate to have had wonderful "catching guys" my entire career. Scott Stricklin at GT was wonderful and gave me great foundation to build upon. Don Wakamatsu and Damon Berryhill with Texas helped me tremendously. However, nobody has helped me more mentally than Bob Natal, I feel like he got me over the minor league hump, and he has always believed in my ability. So I was very fortunate to have such wonderful coaches along the way.
Mack: - Mike, you've been mostly known as a defensive specialist, but the bat came awake this year for Binghamton (.283/.403/.396/.799, in 265-AB). Was there something different you did to prepare yourself for that season? .
Nickeas: - I think the adjustments came when I went to Binghamton and was able to spend some time with Luis Natera and Tim Teufel. Luis really took me under his wing and remolded my swing. Tuff gave me an opportunity to play everyday, which is something I really have had until this year. I think in a lot of ways the stars just aligned and I performed.
Mack: - I hope somebody makes Tuff the #2 man behind the new manager... most of the current team was coached by him... well, that leaves us with this year and your call to Queens... I watched the night you started your first game and was thrilled for you... tell us all what it was like for you? .
Nickeas: - It was a great moment for me, it really is hard to describe what that moment meant to me and what it will always mean to me.
Mack: - I can't imagine. Listen, you've done well and the Mets are a better organization with someone like you in it. Best of everything this summer and I'll see you in Lucy come March. .
Nickeas: - Thank you Mack, see you then.
10-1-10: - 2011 Forecast: - Nickeas made the jump to Queens late in this season and there is a good chance he could return next spring as the 3rd string catcher. Frankly, I'd rather have him play every day in Buffalo, in case an injury hits Josh Thole. Nickeas has quickly become the teaching catcher and I continue to predict he will some day be a Mets coach.
Every Mets pitcher loved being caught by Mike and he’s always smile when I told him that he will someday become a great catching coach in the majors. I hope my prediction comes true. I know you’re a reader out there Mike. Best of everything and thanks for the memories.