October 15, 2019

Carl Nichols: Former Catcher Still Continuing His Baseball Dreams

July 20, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The Baltimore Orioles were one of the most dominant teams in baseball, winning their division five times and playing in three World Series (winning one of them). A good portion of their success was owed to their dogged pursuit of top-flight talent through the major league draft. One player they tabbed to join their dynastic organization was Carl Nichols.

A catcher, Nichols was selected in the fourth round (103rd overall pick) of the 1980 draft out of Compton High School in California. Still months from his 18th birthday, he was sent to Bluefield, West Virginia in the Appalachian League to start his career. Grady Little was his first professional manager.

Initially, Nichols’ calling card was his athleticism and versatility. The right-handed hitter batted .212  in his first season and .250 the next, with just one home run total. However, as he matured, so did his game. By 1986, when he was 23, he hit .269 with 14 home runs and 72 RBIs at Double-A. The production earned him his first big-league call up the Orioles. Appearing in five games, he struck out four times and drew a walk in six plate appearances.

Over the next five years, 1987-88 with Baltimore and 1989-1991 with the Houston Astros (acquired in a trade), he bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the majors. His strong glove made him a valuable fill-in behind the plate.

During his six major league seasons, Nichols hit a combined .204 with 18 RBIs in 96 games. He also nailed 41 percent of base runners who attempted to run on him.

After not playing in 1992, he revived his career in 1993 in independent baseball. He played for several teams over the next five years, hitting a combined .291 with 56 home runs and 283 RBIs in 364 games before calling it a playing career following the 1997 season.

Like many others in his profession, he couldn’t just leave the game when he stopped playing. He remains in coaching and helping others realize their baseball aspirations; much like he did on his way to a 17-year professional career. Keep reading for more about his time in baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite players were Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds and Steve Yeager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were the two best defensive catchers when I was growing up in LA.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 4th round by the Orioles in 1980?: It wasn’t much of an experience. There wasn’t the big production back then as it is today. I found out I was drafted after coming home from a school picnic. The scout was waiting for me at my house.

What was your mindset to make the majors, but always have veteran stars like Rick Dempsey and Terry Kennedy in front of you?: My mindset was, when am I going to get a chance to play? My mindset should have been work your butt off to be ready for your opportunity. I teach that to the kids I work with today. Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to go work for it and take it.

What do you remember most about your first major league hit against Tom Henke?: I remember it being a game they were blowing us out (Baltimore lost the game 18-3). He hung me an 0-2 forkball that I hit back up the middle for a hit. When I got to first base I remember all the years dating back to even before little league about all the work I put in and all the people helped me on my journey.

Which one pitcher intimidated you more than any other, and why?: The guy who intimidated me, if you want to call it that, was Dale Mohorcic. And it was because he threw sidearm and the white ball would come right out of his white uniform.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Hard to narrow it down to just one moment. But I guess my favorite would be when I got called up to the big leagues for the first time. A surreal moment.

You experienced a second career in independent ball. How did you enjoy playing at that level?: Independent ball was probably the most fun I had playing professional baseball. There was no pressure. No call ups or demotions to worry about. Just go out and have fun with a bunch of guys who still loved playing the game.

What pitcher that you caught had the nastiest pitch, and what was it?: I guess there are a few guys who could fit that category. Jim Clancy’s slider. Darryl Kile’s curveball. Dave Smith’s curveball. Probably Mike Scott’s cutter. That was a tough pitch for guys to hit.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: I would have learned to switch hit. And I would done more weight training.

What are you up to these days?: Coaching and training kids. Working to promote my home-based business.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

He has also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on baseball that are available on Amazon

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