CLEARWATER, FL – Spring training means a fresh start for two generations of the Nichols clan in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
They get to enjoy the experience side-by-side, both literally and figuratively.
On Wednesday, 22 year-old relief pitching prospect Chris Nichols was going through workouts at the Phillies’ minor-league complex, while across the way at Bright House Field his father Rod was working his new job as Philadelphia’s bullpen coach while the big club took on the Washington Nationals in Grapefruit League action.
Some might think being the son of a coach in the same organization who coaches the same position would bring increased pressure and scrutiny.
They might be right, but Nichols doesn’t see it that way.
“My dad’s my guy,” Nichols said. “Getting a chance to talk to him every day and how easy it is for us to stay in touch… it’s nice.”
Rod Nichols enjoys the promotion to the major leagues after over a decade of coaching with the Phillies’ minor-league clubs, predeced by a seven-year MLB career as a reliever with the Cleveland Indians, LA Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves.
Chris, meanwhile, looks to build upon a solid but short rookie season.
Splitting his first pro season between the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team and class-A Williamsport and Lakewood, Nichols was rock solid, posting a 3.67 ERA while surrendering zero home runs and just two walks in 20 combined appearances.
Admittedly not a power pitcher, Nichols relies on precise location and good sink on his pitches to induce easy outs for his defence.
“I have a good feel for the strike zone,” said Nichols. “If I’m out there walking guys than something is definitely off.”
In other words, Nichols has the makings of a steady relief pitcher that teams perpetually covet.
Despite the family ties within the organization and his specialized talents on the mound, Nichols is keeping a level head with his options.
“I’d love to play for 20 years, but I’m also a guy who, after 20 years, is definitely going to want to do something else.”
This past fall, following his rookie season in the minor leagues, Nichols went back to his alma mater at University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota to finish up his versatile degree in business and English.
“I’m one of those weird guys who likes school,” Nichols said, adding that he is still pondering post-graduate education options.
“Journalism is actually something I’ve been considering. I’m still at that stage where I’m like, ‘man, I could do that.’”
He still may be a long way from joining his dad in the Phillies’ bullpen but the humble Helena native is more than happy to roll with the journey.
“I want to see myself move up in the system, play at a higher level this year, and other than that, I really just want to be better than the hitter most days,” Nichols said.
“I know it’s obvious, but I really just want to get better.”