2012 broadcaster Sam Levitt had the chance to speak with Kelly Nicholson and ask him a few questions about his offseason, the upcoming season, and why fans should come out to Eldredge Park this summer.
Q: What are some of the things you do in the offseason in California to prepare for the season and summer on the Cape?
Kelly Nicholson: Our recruiting for this team in 2012 was pretty much finished by October of last year. We are already kind of bearing down on guys for the summer of 2013. My busy time is really during the summer when our season is going on, and after our summer is over. That is when we are following guys in their various summer leagues, and that’s when you get calls from coaches, scouts, and whomever. Then, we compile a list, talk about guys and try to make decisions on everybody. Once we kind of fill up our roster, then it ‘s just a matter of following guys and seeing how they are doing, while getting reads on guys for the following summer. It’s kind of a never-ending process. It’s fun and exciting, but it’s kind of non-stop.
Q: Do you ever get to go see any of the players on the upcoming season’s roster before the summer?
KN: I do. I live in Los Angeles so I’m obviously close to USC, UCLA, Loyola, Pepperdine, and Long Beach. If a guy is coming in to town, I’ll normally try to at least introduce myself and say hello, and if I can watch him play I’ll do that as well. I don’t always get an opportunity to go see everybody, but I try to at least say hello when I have an opportunity.
Q: What are you most excited for this upcoming season with this particular roster of players?
KN: I’m excited to get the season underway and see this new group of kids play. I’m excited that we have hopefully a couple of returners. Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was with us last summer, as was Anthony Gomez who is having a big year at Vanderbilt. Reed Gragnani (Virginia) did a solid job for us last year, and then Jake Hernandez (USC) caught for us a little bit before leaving early because he had some injury problems. It’s going to be nice to have some familiar faces back on the Cape, and then to have some new faces is always an exciting thing. We’re pretty excited to have Dominic Ficociello (Arkansas) who played for Team USA last summer, and when you can get a kid of that caliber, you’re pretty excited to watch him play. It’s a new summer, a new group of guys, and I’m just looking forward to watching them play.
Q: Are you looking for improvement in any particular facet of the game this season?
KN: Everybody can get better whether you are a player or a coach; we all want to get better. If Gragnani, Gomez, Gott, and Hernandez come back to Orleans and have the kind of performances they did last summer, we would be really happy. Those kids did a really good job on the field and off the field, and that’s why they got invited back. They’re good players and outstanding young men. We would like to get better in all aspects. We’d like to pitch a little bit better, swing the bats better, and always play solid defense. We are always looking for that perfect game where it all comes together.
Q: What’s the #1 thing you miss about the Cape in the offseason?
KN: The people and relationships I have with the players and coaches. Being with Benny Craig and Jason Brown day in and day out for an entire summer really means a lot to me. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s really nice to win championships, but the relationships are the things that last. Those are the things that I’m going to take away from the Cape, always remember, and I’ll always be most proud of the friendships that I’ve developed and the players that have passed through Orleans. I’ll be ever indebted to Sue Horton, who gave me an opportunity to manage in 2005.
Q: What’s the #1 reason fans should come out to Eldredge Park for every game this summer?
KN: I think people go to Eldredge Park and to all the other teams on the Cape because they know that the kids they are watching will be in the big leagues one day. When they do see them on TV and in the big leagues, they can say: “I saw them at Eldredge Park.” I think that’s pretty exciting. The fans can interact with everybody on the field afterwards, have nice conversations with the players, take pictures with them, and get autographs. I think that’s the beauty of the Cape. It’s amateur baseball at its finest, super pure, and highly competitive. They are the best college players in the best summer league in the country, and I think that’s pretty exciting to the people who come and watch Cape League games.