Dale Ricketts one step closer to his Dream
Starting catcher for 2012 NAIA Champions Tennesse Wesleyan, Australian Dale Ricketts was also named in the All-tournament Team to cap off his Senior College year.
Tennessee is a long way from Lara, Victoria, where Dale Ricketts calls home, but this is where he is making his name and forging his mark.
The twenty-three year old Australian Native has been playing College Baseball for four years, and last week, in his senior year at Tennesse Wesleyan (TWC), they won the 2012 Avista NAIA World Series Championships; the first title of its kind for the college.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) promotes their players as Champions of Character, which is an apt representation for Ricketts; a former MLBAAP player and well-grounded product of Australian Baseball.
A couple of days after his win and All-tournament Team naming, Dale was full of admiration for his team mates and modest in accepting any praise of his own.
“It is an honour and dream come true to be a part of this team. I’ve never seen a team with so much talent work so well together. When we were on the field we all had our eyes on the prize and did whatever it took to win” said Ricketts.
Named in the NAIA All-tournament Team with six of his Wesleyan team mates, Dale credits his team’s work ethic for his recognition as catcher.
“The attitude and work ethic was like a virus among the team, it spread and we worked off each other’s energy at practice and during play. It is an awesome feeling sharing all-tournament recognition with a group of players who have so much talent and passion for the game”.
A different world to the baseball landscape in Australia, the training and commitment needed to make the starting line-up in the NAIA World Series is testing. Training six to seven times a week, weights and conditioning at 6am and ballpark practice in the afternoon, periods where you don’t get a day off for three weeks. It can all take a toll on the athlete’s body and mind. But a toll that Dale has proved is worth it.
At twenty-four Dale is already familiar with the resolute conditions that come with playing career baseball in the US. He started at Kansas City Community College, a two year junior college, where he worked and played hard and earned a scholarship to the University of North Alabama. The scholarship was for two years but unfortunately his eligibility to play was restricted to one year because of an NCAA eligibility violation.
After he graduated high school, Dale took an extra year and played for the Geelong Baycats in Australia, which meant that he was in breach of NCAA’s condition to only allow athletes to compete for one year from the date of graduation to the date of enrolment. Looking back now this was not such a bad thing, as it forced him to play his senior year at TWC; and win a NAIA World Series.
College baseball also afforded Ricketts the opportunity in the summer of 2011 to play in the Northwoods League: a summer baseball league comprised of teams of the top college players from across North America and beyond.
“The NWL is an unbelievable experience. It’s something every aspiring college athlete should dream of doing. Playing every single day, travelling to Canada and several other States; it is designed to get the players ready for the ride in Minor League ball. The atmosphere in the stadiums in the NWL is defiantly similar to the atmosphere at the (MLB) World Series”.
After speaking with Dale, his name was not called in the MLB draft; evidently not yet his time. So where to now after college baseball?
“I’m going to play summer ball in Kansas and work towards a free agent signing. I still have thirteen credit hours left of my Business Degree until I graduate, so I’m enrolled at TWC in the fall to complete my studies” explained Ricketts.
It seems as though the college path has suited Dale; he will graduate with a Business Degree and has gained priceless baseball experience. The somewhat turbulent years have better prepared him with understanding, patience and commitment to push for the big leagues.
Dale’s advice for Australian players wanting to get a start in the US:
“Home sickness is only temporary. There is an alternative and that is to be in Australia doing what everyone else does; work and pay bills. Or you can live the dream and travel the US playing a sport you love.”