Column: Draft day arrives for Alan Rick, Howie Kendrick

The date: Tuesday, June 4, 2002.

The event: The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

 

History books will state that in the 2002 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Howie Kendrick was selected in the 10th round by the Anaheim Angels with selection No. 294.

And it will also say that among the 293 picks made before Kendrick was drafted and would enjoy a prosperous baseball career, the name of Alan Rick was called.

Rick, a senior at Palatka High School, didn’t have to wait long to hear the name. He was taken in the fourth round by the Chicago Cubs, the 123rd pick. And if you think that Rick was just sitting by the phone all day waiting for a team to call him and tell him he was a part of their organization, you’d be completely wrong.

“I didn’t want to spend the day sitting by the phone,” Rick said after being drafted. “So I was just trying to keep busy and take my mind off things.”

What exactly was he doing? Working on his truck. 

And then when the phone rang at 2:20 in the afternoon, Rick said he still didn’t believe it was someone from the Cubs organization telling him his baseball dreams had come true.

“When the call came, I thought it was a prank,” he said. “I didn’t think I would go that high.”

But he did. Rick was selected by the Cubs after he hit .354 with six home runs and 21 RBI during the 2002 season. Rick was selected as the eighth catcher in the draft; University of Alabama backstop Jeremy Brown was selected 35th overall by the Oakland Athletics. Interestingly, the second catcher chosen was a young man from Richview Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke, Ontario with power to all fields. The Cincinnati Reds chose him 44th overall and ultimately, he turned into a first baseman – Joey Votto, the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player. And the fifth catcher chosen was a Duluth (Ga.) High star named Brian McCann, taken by the Atlanta Braves.

Not bad company to be around, especially when you’re taken in the fourth round of a large amateur draft.

“I’m just in completely shock still,” Rick said that evening after being selected. “Of course I’m very happy. It’s hard to believe right now that all that I have worked for has paid off. It’s really a dream come true to be drafted. I’ve never felt like this in my life. I still feel jittery now just thinking about it.”

The prospectus on Rick by one publication said, “Tall, lean and wiry. Eddie Taubensee-type build. Good carry on throws. Frames well behind plate. Ball comes off bat with authority. Pull hitter with some long-ball power. Dedicated player that loves to play. Works hard at game.”

Rick would head to the Cubs’ rookie league team in Arizona and hit .232 in 69 at-bats with 11 runs scored and four RBI. In 2003, he was Boise in Single-A ball for the Cubs, hitting .257 with six home runs and 20 RBI and 20 runs scored in 171 at-bats. In 2004, it was off to Lansing where he had nine home runs and 36 RBI, while hitting .256.

There were stops in Peoria and Daytona Beach in 2005 and ‘06, respectively. In 2007, Rick spent time in both Daytona Beach and in Knoxville with the Tennessee Smokies, who had signed a deal with the Cubs after its affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks ended.

By the end of that 2007 season, his association with the Cubs came to an end and Rick ended up signing with Fargo-Morehead of the Independent League where he enjoyed three strong seasons with the team – 15 HR, 51 RBI, .267 in ‘08; 18 HR, 65 RBI, .262 in ‘09 and 11 HR, 49 RBI and .253 in ‘10. 

There were stops in Winnipeg in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League, the Lake County Fielders of Zion, Illinois, the Maui Na Koa Ikaika of Hawaii and Lincoln Salt Dogs of Nebraska before the dream of playing more baseball ended in 2012.

Three years later, Rick was back in his native Palatka to become head coach of the Panthers, taking them to a district baseball championship in 2016. He just finished his fifth season in charge with one of his assistants being his father Sam, the former St. Johns River coach.

And the same coach who had Kendrick for one season. But what a season it was for the West Nassau graduate who had no takers once his high school career was over when Sam Rick took a chance on him, playing Kendrick at second base. In the 2002 season, Kendrick hit a gaudy 456 with seven home runs and 34 RBI, named the Mid-Florida Conference Player of the year.

“If they offer me what I want, I’ll take it,” Kendrick said after he was drafted.

Obviously, he liked what he saw and heard. Angels scout Tom Kotchman, who discovered Kendrick while at SJRCC, said in his prospectus of Kendrick, “My goodness, the kid hit the ball. I couldn’t believe there weren’t other scouts there. And other JCs cut this guy? What were they thinking?”

Kendrick worked his way through the minors before finally being brought up to the Angels in 2006. Injuries have been an issue with Kendrick since coming up, but he has enjoyed a steady career. In a 14-year career that has seen him play for the Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and currently, the Washington Nationals, Kendrick has a gaudy .292 average with 117 home runs, 681 RBI and 744 runs scored with 125 stolen bases. Kendrick has been to the postseason nine of his 14 years and has a pair of home runs. In his one All-Star Game appearance in 2011 against Craig Kimbrel, he grounded out 

Still, the history books will say that he was chosen 294th. And Alan Rick was chosen ahead of him.

For Sam Rick, Alan’s dad and Kendrick’s coach, it was an awesome day.

Mark Blumenthal is a writer for the Palatka Daily News. You can reach him at mblumenthal@palatkadailynews.com or on Twitter @diabolicalmarky.

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