When Brett Nicholas was growing up, his family went to Safeco Field in Seattle to watch the Mariners play. One summer, he told his grandpa he’d leave him a ticket to watch him play there.
Years later, in 2016, Nicholas made his major league debut in Seattle in front of his friends and family, including his grandpa.
“A lot of people talk about the fact that you put in a lot of work before your first call-up, and I’d do it all over again,” Nicholas said. “It’s just baseball working out like it always does. Yeah, it took a few extra years, but I’d do it all over again.”
Now he’s going back to the big leagues again. The Rangers called up the veteran catcher for the third time in his career. Rangers’ backup catcher Robinson Chirinos sprained his right ankle on Sunday, but will only be available for emergency situations for the next few games.
Nicholas is third among active Express players with 69 appearances and second with a .311 average this season to go along with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. He’s started 44 games behind the plate.
He has also appeared as the designated hitter, at first base and at third base this season for Round Rock. The ability to adapt makes Nicholas an even more valuable piece for the Rangers, especially in a backup role.
The catching at the major league level has been bleak this year for the four-place Rangers. Jonathan Lucroy, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last season, has a .240 average with just four homers and 26 RBIs, while Chirinos is hitting at a .227 clip with 12 home runs.
“I don’t think it’s stressful now,” Nicholas said. “When I was younger, I would have been a little more stressed out. You can’t control what they’re going to do or when they’re going to do it, it’s just about enjoying where you are and the guys around you.”
Nicholas always knew he wanted to get drafted. As a slower guy, the outfield was out of the picture and his power numbers weren’t good enough to be a consistent mainstay at first base.
So he took a leap of faith.
After growing up in Phoenix, Nicholas played college baseball at Gonzaga where he played some first base and outfield. He transferred to a junior college to focus on catching full time before transferring to Missouri and getting drafted in the sixth round in 2010.
When he got to the professional ranks, he was behind a first-round catcher and he mainly played first base when he started with the rookie league in Arizona and Advanced-A Spokane Indians.
He said the time spent at first base let him focus on his swing and becoming a consistent hitter. But he always held on to the catching aspect of the game until 2014, when he was called up to Triple-A and caught 48 games for the Express.
“When you’re not a top round draft pick, it’s about surviving when you get in an organization,” Nicholas said. “You just have to do what you need to do so when your opportunity comes, you can take advantage of it.”
Nicholas missed the first few games of this season after tearing his meniscus during spring training. It was the first time he’s needed surgery in his career, so it was a different experience for him not catching three or four days in a row.
Baseball is what Nicholas loves to do, but it’s not his first love. He and his wife Rachel started dating when he was a sophomore in high school and she works in Phoenix as an intellectual properties attorney. The couple’s first child, Walker, was born eight months ago.
“We work well together because she chased her dream while I was chasing my dream and we kind of got our own lives together,” he said. “It’s been awesome to experience some of my highs and lows with her and it’s been good to experience her career with her."