"I am a team guy."
The Nationals selected catcher, Pat Nichols in the 16th round of the 2006 draft out of Old Dominion University. Nichols proved to be a valuable backstop with Vermont in 2006, and is beginning the 2007 season in extended spring training. We recently caught up with Pat for a Q&A session.
CapitolDugout: Looking back at your first season as a pro, what are your overall thoughts on how it went and the experience in general?
Pat Nichols: The experience was incredible. It is what I have wanted to do since I was a little kid. I played my whole life looking forward to getting drafted. It was kind of surreal after it happened and I spent the whole season happy to finally be there. I had some adjustments to make with my swing, and (hitting coach) Tony Tarasco worked very hard with me from day one in Vermont. He told me what I had to do to perform at this level, and that it wouldn't happen overnight. He is a great hitting coach; he's so positive and knowledgeable. I am finally swinging the bat well, and am looking forward to a much better season statistically.
CapitolDugout: Coming into this spring training, what do you think were the biggest differences in your game compared to last season?
Pat Nichols: Relaxation is the biggest difference. I tend to press and try too hard sometimes. The key for me is to relax both offensively and defensively.
CapitolDugout: Entering spring training, what were your expectations for where you might break camp and what were some things you were also expecting from yourself?
Pat Nichols: You can't really have expectations as to where you will end up. I can't control it. All that I can control is whether or not I come to the field ready to play each and every day. I expect myself to play and practice with a purpose, and learn as much as possible. That is the key to moving up I think.
CapitolDugout: For fans who don't know much about you, what would you tell them about your style of play and what you bring to the table?
Pat Nichols: I'm a very hard nosed, aggressive player. I am a good catcher that can hit for power and throw runners out.
CapitolDugout: Looking ahead to wherever you may be assigned in the coming months, what type of personal goals do you have for yourself in 2007?
Pat Nichols: Offensively, the goal I have set for myself is to have a better approach. I want to increase my walks and decrease my strikeouts. Obviously I want to hit the ball hard, but by relaxing and being more selective I will swing at better pitches. This will boost my batting average and production numbers. Defensively, I want to improve my accuracy on my throws to second and keep passed balls to a minimum. I also want to establish a good relationship with my pitching staff.
CapitolDugout: You said earlier that you try not to worry about where you'll be assigned, but do you have any hint of where you may eventually be assigned in the coming months or what the organization has planned for you?
Pat Nichols: I think I'm going to go back to Vermont.
CapitolDugout: Beginning the season in extended spring training is no one's favorite thing but in what ways do you think it could benefit you in the long run?
Pat Nichols: I get to spend the first half of the summer improving my catching skills and my swing. The goal of extended is to give young players time to improve and receive a lot of instruction every day. Hopefully, I will come out of extended a better player than when I came in. I feel like I'm already a better player now than I was when it started a few weeks ago.
CapitolDugout: As a catcher, especially in the minors, you work with a lot of pitchers. What is the key to being able to manage all of those guys successfully?
Pat Nichols: You have to be able to read hitters, know what pitch to call when, block balls in the dirt, throw runners out, and receive well. But most importantly, you have to have a good relationship with each and every pitcher so that they will want to have you catching them. You have to believe in the pitcher so that they believe in your ability to catch them. It pays off on the days where they don't have their best stuff, and you help them battle through 6 quality innings even though they don't have their A game.
CapitolDugout: Who in extended that you've caught has stood out in your mind and why?
Pat Nichols: Well, I caught Pedro Astacio one day about two weeks ago. Granted he is a 15 year big league veteran, but he has great stuff. He wont be here for very long. Cory Van Allen also threw very well. He has since been moved to Hagerstown. David Trahan is another guy who stands out in my mind. He recently moved down to a new arm slot and his ball moves a lot. He was pretty dominating.
CapitolDugout: Have you had the chance to catch any of the new signings from Latin America? If so, which of them has impressed you?
Pat Nichols: Yeah I have caught all of them. (Left-handed pitcher) Randy Almonte is young and has really good stuff. I haven't caught him in a game yet, only in the bullpen. But, he shows signs of being a really good pitcher in the future.
CapitolDugout: If there was something a Nationals fan should definitely know about you, what should they know?
Pat Nichols: I am a team guy, and I want to win baseball games.