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Mike Nickeas

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Michael James Nickeas

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[edit] Biographical Information

Mike Nickeas played 7 minor league seasons before making his major league debut in 2010. He has played for the USA and England in international events.

Nickeas is the son of a British professional soccer player, Mark Nickeas. Mike opted for baseball instead and performed very well. He set his high school's record with 98 career RBI. In 2001, he was on the US Junior national team. He hit .577 and slugged 1.038 in the Junior Pan Am Games and scored 16 runs while driving in 13. He was the tournament leader in batting average, runs and slugging, outperforming teammates such as Jeff Francoeur and B.J. Upton as well as Yulieski Gourriel. He was named to the All-Tournament Team at catcher, but failed to win MVP honors as Kendry Morales of Gold-winning Cuba took the award.

In 2002, Nickeas hit .221/.312/.316 as the backup catcher on the #8 team in NCAA Division I. He appeared in the 2002 College World Series. With the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League that summer, Mike hit .204 but his 15 RBI tied Matt Kutler for second on the team, which won the pennant.

Nickeas hit .333/.398/.502 as Georgia Tech's starter and followed by hitting .364 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. He tied for 12th in the ACC in average. With Team USA's college edition that summer, he hit .303, 4th on the team and ahead of Dustin Pedroia, Brent Lillibridge or Eric Patterson. Nickeas split catching duties with Jeff Clement. He helped the US win Silver in the 2003 Pan American Games.

Mike slumped in 2004, hitting .279/.379/.442 for the #10 squad in NCAA Division I. The Texas Rangers and scout John Castleberry signed Nickeas as the 5th round pick in the 2004 amateur draft.

Nickeas debuted professionally with the Spokane Indians, batting .288/.384/.494 with 55 RBI in 61 games. He led the Northwest League catchers with 419 putouts and tied Brandon Green for third in the NWL in RBI, trailing Chris Carter by 8 and Travis Metcalf by 7. Nickeas was named to the NWL All-Star team at catcher. Baseball America rated him as the league's #19 prospect, trailing Kurt Suzuki (#12), Landon Powell (#16) and Orlando Mercado Jr. (#18) among backstops.

Nickeas hit .202/.263/.302 only for the Frisco RoughRiders in 2005, jumping from low-A ball to AA. He battled a broken finger and required a rehab stint. In 2007, Mike hit .297/.395/.359 in 17 games for the Bakersfield Blaze and .248/.382/.363 in 39 contests for Frisco.

On August 30, Texas traded Nickeas to the New York Mets in exchange for Victor Diaz. He was 2 for 12 with the Binghamton Mets after the deal.

In 2007, Mike went to spring training with New York. In the regular season, he struggled with Binghamton (.217/.281/.278 in 65 games) and the St. Lucie Mets (.208/.378/.299 in 26 games). In the 2007 European Championship, Nickeas played for his father's native country, Great Britain. He helped them to their first Silver Medal ever in a European Championship, batting .424/.487/.606 with 10 RBI in 8 games as Britain's cleanup hitter, providing protection for #3 batter Brant Ust. Nickeas was only held hitless in the Gold Medal game, when David Bergman and two relievers won it for the Netherlands. His 14 total bases in the event were second only to Ust, the MVP. Nickeas was named to the All-Star team at catcher. Great Britain qualified for the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament but later withdrew for financial reasons.

Nickeas hit .196/.288/.275 in 18 games for Binghamton in 2008 and .215/.275/.307 for the New Orleans Zephyrs. The Mets kept him in their system, though, and he did worse in 2009 (.164/.278/.180 between Binghamton and the Buffalo Bisons). New York still did not let go and he showed new life in 2010, his best in at least four years, producing at a .283/.403/.396 rate for Binghamton and going 6 for 28 with a double and walk for Buffalo. When rosters expanded in September, he made it to the big leagues despite having hit under .220 in four of his seven pro campaigns.

In his MLB debut on September 4, 2010, he started at catcher and hit 7th. His first time up, he grounded into a double play against Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs, and he flew out the next trip to the plate. He left for PH Josh Thole in the 7th. One player, Starlin Castro, tried to run on Nickeas, and stole successfully. He played 5 games that season, hitting. 200. In 2011, he hit .189 in 21 games in the majors, with his first career home run. He also had 60 games at Buffalo, where he hit only .214 with a pair of homers and 15 RBI.

Nickeas was hitting well below .200 on May 26, 2012, when he hit his first career grand slam, connecting off Dale Thayer of the San Diego Padres to clinch a 9-0 win for the Mets. He finished the season hitting .174 in 47 games as Thole's main back-up behind the plate. He also played 22 games at Buffalo, hitting an uncharacteristic .364. After the season, on December 16th, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in a major deal also involving Thole and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey heading to Toronto in return for Cs John Buck and Travis d'Arnaud, and pitchers Wuilmer Becerra and Noah Syndergaard.

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