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.
Tony Kirkland is more than just a former coach to Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.
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Colquitt County boys win region soccer championship (UPDATED)
The Colquitt County boys soccer team won three straight region championships from 1997-1999, but had not had one since then before Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at Coffee broke the 14-year drought.
Colquitt boys soccer team wins region championship
The Colquitt County boys soccer team won three straight region championships from 1997-1999, but had not had one since then until Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at Coffee broke the 14-year drought.
Boys tennis team wins state tournament opener
The Colquitt County boys tennis team won its Class AAAAAA state tournament opener on Wednesday, knocking off Region 3 champion East Coweta 5-0 in Sharpsburg.
Colquitt County High baseball seniors
The Colquitt County baseball team’s seniors, who were honored before Tuesday’s game against Thomas County Central, include, front, from left, Preston Berry, Jonah Bozeman, Daniel Mobley and Mack Hathcock; back, Gabe Mobley, Tony Simpson, Ross Goforth, Andy Bush, Ryan Chatman, Cole Bryant and Clayton Brown. The Packers finish the regular season with a game at Crisp County today.
Colquitt County wins state tennis opener
The Colquitt County boys tennis team traveled to Sharpsburg on Wednesday and won its first-round state tournament opener, defeating Region 3-AAAAAA champion East Coweta 5-0.
The Packers, the No. 4 team from Region 1, will play the Kennesaw Mountain-Luella winner in the second round. That match is expected to be held on Monday.
Check back for details.
The Colquitt County boys and girls soccer teams’ seniors were honored on Monday between the games against Lowndes at Packer Park. They are, front, from left, Alex Balderas, Haley Bautista, Leslie Aguilar, Raley Wallace, Abbi Beth Paulk, Carlos Martinez and Eric Gould; middle, Brian Vidales, Manuel Vasquez, Richard Garcia, Fernando Miranda, Marcus Lopez, Will Pitts and Maca Aguilera; back, Francisco Gomez, Gio Martin, Luis Padilla, Matt Moody, Josh Smith and Jay Tolbert.
Greene, 4x100 team get region track wins
Marquan Greene won the 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay team also took first place to lead the Colquitt County boys to a fifth-place finish at the Region 1-AAAAAA track meet held recently in Tifton.
Alderman Realty gets Tiny Mite victory
Alderman Realty edged Chick-fil-A 13-12 on Monday in a Tiny Mite girls softball game.
Hutchinson-Traylor holds off Davis Insurance
After taking a 5-0 lead after its first three at bats, Hutchinson-Traylor had to hang on to defeat Davis Insurance 5-4 on Monday in a Midget League game at the Magnolia Sports Complex.
Sprint cars at Needmore
This Saturday night Needmore Speedway will host the second round of a Southern Sprint Car Showdown as sprint cars from the ASCS, Carolina Sprint Car Series will challenge drivers from the Florida Sprint Car Series. This new partnership was formed between the two series to make racing more affordable as well as more exciting for race fans. The first event in the Showdown series will kick off Friday night at Oglethorpe Speedway in Pooler, then head to Needmore for Saturday’s event. According to Carolina series director Tom Baker, this new series will pit the Florida sprints with their 360 limited motors against the smaller 305 engines in the ASCS cars. But according to Baker, both develop about the same horsepower plus the Oglethorpe track is totally different than Needmore’s 3/8s mile surface. Fans can expect to see top drivers from each series in action this Saturday night including Johnny Petrozelle, Shawn Mott and Tim Perry of the Carolina series as they take on Florida's best. Baker said ‘these drivers don't care what series label it is or what motor is in the car, these guys are the wildest, craziest drivers you'll see all year and they always put on a good show.’ Needmore's lineup this Saturday will also include Limited Late Models, Super Streets, Hobbys and Enduros. Gates open at 3 p.m. with racing at 7 p.m.
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- Colquitt County boys win region soccer championship (UPDATED)