Hicks goes from unknown to hero
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.
This column is about Brandon Hicks of the Oakland A’s, but it’s about more than Brandon Hicks. It’s about the Hicks Effect on the A’s.
Hicks, as you probably know, hit a walkoff home run on Wednesday against the American League champion Texas Rangers to give the A’s a 4-3 win. That much we know for sure.
It is difficult to know more about Hicks. Until Wednesday, he was kind of a nobody, like many A’s players. The A’s claimed him on waivers from the Braves during spring training. He came to the A’s after the publication of the media guide because, where he should be in the book, he isn’t. The A’s had to photocopy a supplemental biography just to account for him.
The A’s brought him to the big club on June 23. Before his walkoff job, he played in 11 games, had 34 at-bats, and was batting a wimpy .147. He also had zero home runs. That’s for his entire career. So, his walkoff was his first major-league homer. Talk about announcing your presence with a shout.
He’s 26 and he originally signed with Atlanta in 2007 and was a minor leaguer through 2009. He played some major-league games in 2010 and 2011. The only reason he was in Wednesday’s game to hit the home run was because he entered as a pinch runner in the seventh. That’s the essence of a nobody.
Manager Bob Melvin put Hicks into perspective.
Did Melvin expect a walkoff?
“You know what?” Melvin said smiling, “the inning before I was thinking if they sent (lefty Michael) Kirkman back out there, it was a good matchup for him. I don’t know if I was thinking walkoff home run.”
Melvin filled in some gaps in Hicks’ story. “Based on what he was doing for us in Triple-A, he’s got a lot of power. We’re trying to get him in against left-handed pitching, not to platoon, but give him left-handed starts at shortstop. He’s a good defender, can play anywhere in the infield and he’s got some power.”
Well, that’s a start. Here is Hicks on Hicks for further background:
What pitch did he take deep?
“I think it was a two-seam fastball, but I’m not sure. It could have been a changeup.”
On it being his first home run: “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. For it to come right there was an awesome feeling.”
At that point, Josh Reddick hit him in the face with a pie.
“You thought you’d get away from me,” Reddick announced, leaving cream on Hicks’ face, in his hair and on his chair.
“I wasn’t ready for that one,” Hicks said by way of understatement.
When Hicks mostly had wiped off, I informed him he’s not in the media guide.
“Oh yeah?” was all he said.
Does it hurt his feelings?
You can see he’s economical with words. They say Joe DiMaggio was the same way.
What kind of player is he?
“I play the game hard. I’m a gap-to-gap hitter. I’m able to drive the ball every now and then.”
Does he have good range in the field?
“Yep, I believe I do.”
How is his arm?
“I feel I’ve got good arm strength.”
We’ll leave Hicks at this point. Think of him as the strong silent type. Let’s slide over to batting coach Chili Davis, an astute judge of baseball and people.
“I didn’t know much about him until he got here, to tell the truth,” Davis said of Hicks. “I don’t think I’ve been around him long enough to see him get hot and then cold, but he’s got a lot of pop for a shortstop and he can drive the ball the other way. Hits the ball hard. I haven’t seen enough of him to grade what kind of player he is. He works a lot in the cage. He’s been kind of struggling a little bit.
“The last few days in Minnesota and here you can notice his swing is a lot freer and the ball is starting to jump off his bat a little better.”
Has Davis talked much to Hicks?
“I don’t know him that well. I mean, we talk in the cage. He doesn’t say a lot. I don’t know him as well as I know the other guys because I’ve gone through spring training with them. He just kind of came on the scene. I’m getting to know him as a player and a person, and that takes a little while sometimes.”
OK, that’s the primer on Brandon Hicks. Now we’ll talk about the cosmic meaning of Hicks, because there is a cosmic meaning where the A’s are concerned.
On Wednesday he won a game. In the past, Brandon Inge has won games and so has Brandon Moss. Lots of Brandons, but there are others named Travis Blackley and Jarrod Parker and Sean Doolittle. I could go on.
These are all players you barely heard of and they’re making the A’s a contender. The story of the A’s season — well, one story line — is that unknowns deliver all the time.
Who will be the next unknown to become a hero? Call it the Hicks Effect.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular,go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
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