Moultrie Observer

Local Sports

February 2, 2013

A's Reddick in Moultrie keeping in touch with Kirkland

MOULTRIE —  Tony Kirkland is more than just a former coach to Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.

“He’s been a friend, too,” Reddick said Saturday during the Colquitt County High baseball team’s intrasquad scrimmage at Ike Aultman Field.

The two have kept in touch over the years and Reddick has made several trips to Moultrie to visit the man who coached him for two seasons at South Effingham High School.

And following the Packers practice on Saturday, Kirkland and Reddick were heading to the battling cage where the A’s leading home run and RBI producer last season will work on hitting to opposite field.

Reddick was one of the top players Kirkland helped produce during the six years he was the head coach at South Effingham.

Kirkland was an assistant coach for the Packers for a number of years and was on the bench working for Jerry Croft when the Packers won state championships in 1997 and 2003.

He was the head coach at South Effingham from 2004-2009 before returning to Colquitt County as head coach in 2009.

The Packers have gone 41-24 the last two seasons and have won a pair of region championships.

After Reddick graduated from South Effingham, he played a season at Middle Georgia College and was drafted in the 17th round by th Boston Red Sox in 2006.

He played parts of three seasons with Boston before being traded on Dec. 28, 2011 to Oakland with Miles Head and Raul Alcantara for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney.

“It was the best thing that happened to me,” Reddick said of the trade.

Given the opportunity to play every day, he led the A’s in home runs with 32 and in runs batted in with 85. And his performance in right field earned him a Gold Glove.

And he was able to play an important role in the A’s winning the American League East championship.

The A’s finished 94-68 and overtook the Texas Rangers for first place on the last day of the season, making up a five-game deficit with nine days left.

How were they able to do it?

“We just didn’t think about it,” Reddick said. “We just kept playing. We really just took it one game at a time. We just said, ‘Let’s go out and play today.’”

Reddick credits Oakland manager Bob Melvin with much of the team’s success.

“He just let our personalities run wild,” Reddick said. “He just let everybody be themselves and get to their comfort level.”

The A’s did not make many roster changes since last season, although the loss of Jonny Gomes will be felt in the clubhouse, Reddick said.

With Stephen Drew departing, the A’s have added Hiroyuki Nakajima to play shortstop.

Chris Young has been added to create what might look like a logjam in the outfield, joining Reddick, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith and Yoenis Cespedes.

Reddick said he does not expect the addition of Young to affect him.

After putting up such impressive numbers and winning a Gold Glove, Reddick said he expects to be back in right field when the A’s open the 2013 season on April 1 at home against the Seattle Mariners.

And while he said he does not set numbers goals, he would like to improve his ability to hit the ball to left field.

The left-hand batter said he believes being able to go the other way, especially with runners in scoring position, will help him increase his runs batted in.

And, he said, he expects the opposition to begin pitching him more after his 32-home run season.

And while he has not swung the bat much so far this offseason, he was looking forward to getting into the batting cage at Packer Park with his former high school coach.

“I’m not going to pull anything,” he said.

And he knew he could count on Kirkland pitching to him as long as he wanted to hit.

Kirkland built a reputation during his first stint in Moultrie as being a tireless worker who would remain with his hitters as long as they needed him and he has continued to put in long hours at the field since he returned.

And that’s what Reddick remembers of Kirkland when the two were at South Effingham.

“I remember him leaving 8-9 o’clock many nights,” Reddick said.

Reddick said Kirkland knew how to motivate young players and was still very personable.

Reddick says he enjoyed playing in Oakland last season and is eager to get to spring training.

The A’s train in Phoenix, Ariz., as part of the Cactus League.

After training in Florida with the Red Sox for several years, Reddick enjoyed last March in Arizona, where the dry heat is more bearable and the road trips for games are shorter.

And he says there is plenty to do his off-time.

Reddick says he has spent much of the offseason in Georgia, enjoying his two dogs, buying his first home and holding his first charity event in his hometown.

A home run derby, naturally.

Oh, and about that long hair and beard. Reddick says the A’s have no restriction on facial hair and he and Crisp had a little contest about who was going to grow the better hair and facial hair.

“I don’t think I can beat the ‘fro,” he quipped.

 

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