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Big league stuff
Former SEHS star Reddick reflects on breakout season in Oakland
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Oakland Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick signed bats, shirts, gloves and caps for kids who took part in the annual South Effingham holiday hitting camp Saturday. Approximately 30 kids took part. To see pictures, visit Reddick also had a question-and-answer with the campers about life as a major league baseball player. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

One of Effingham County’s newest homeowners is enjoying the tranquility of his residence — until it’s time to pack up the bats, gloves and cleats and head west to go back to work.

Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick is enjoying the solitude of his house and three acres of land after a breakthrough season, his first with the A’s. He had been living with his brother and sister-in-law for the last year-and-a-half. But they have a baby, so Reddick has been eager to have a place to call his own.

“I’ve wanted a house for the last year-and-a-half,” he said. “It feels great. I’ve got a place to call my own. It’s good to have my own place.”

Furnishing his new digs, however, has brought its share of curveballs to the left-handed hitting slugger. Fortunately, his merchandise money from his various equipment contracts and endorsements has helped Reddick stock his home.

“It stinks,” he said. “It stinks when you move into a house and realize what you need.”

But Reddick has been getting plenty of rest since the Athletics’ season ended in the American League Division Series.

Since the offseason got under way, Reddick spent most of November traveling, taking part in several charity events. He has more traveling ahead of him, with a visit to Portland, Maine, where he played Double-A baseball. Reddick plans to visit his host family from his Portland Sea Dogs days and take part in a “hot stove” event.

“That’ll be fun,” he said.

A season of all A’s
Reddick emerged in his first season with the A’s. He played in 156 games in the regular season, missing only six games, and he led Oakland in hits, runs, home runs and runs batted in. He had 32 home runs and 85 runs batted in, and his home run total was tied for 10th in the American League. Reddick’s home run total placed him 14th in the major leagues for 2012.

Reddick also was honored for his defense, winning a Gold Glove as one of the best defensive outfielders in the American League. His 14 outfield assists were tied for second-best among AL right fielders and it was tied for third among all AL outfielders.

“I proved a lot,” he said, “not only to myself but to the whole American League. I think I proved a lot to myself that I can really compete in this league, taking pride in both sides of the game.”

Reddick knew he was going to be named a Gold Glover about a month before the winners were announced. Nonetheless, he was excited when the recipients were made known.

“It was a huge accomplishment for me and for the Oakland Athletics,” he said. “It cements me as one of the best outfielders in the game. Maybe the guys will stop running on me. I hope not, because I like throwing guys out.”

Though he had played 143 games over three seasons prior to 2012, this past season was his first as a full-time starter. Even on a team with veteran hands, including center fielder Coco Crisp, outfielder Jonny Gomes and third baseman Brandon Inge, Reddick is now seen as one of the A’s leaders.

Oakland wasn’t expected to contend for the postsesaon, but the Athletics not only made the playoffs, they upstaged the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels in winning the American League West.

“I’ve kind of become a leader of this team,” Reddick said, “and that’s a good feeling, to be 25,26 years old and put that kind of title on me. Hopefully, this isn’t the only division title or Gold Glove I’ll win.”

Reddick still learned quite a lot from his outfield mates, in particularly the well-traveled Gomes. Gomes since has signed as a free agent with Reddick’s old team, the Boston Red Sox. Reddick’s locker was next to Gomes, and the veteran slugger imparted his wisdom gained over the years to the young outfielder.

“I learned a whole lot about on-the-field stuff and off-the-field stuff I had no clue about,” Reddick said. “We became good friends off the field. There was never a dull moment with Jonny because he’s a big jokester.”

Having played a full season and the playoffs, 2012 was the longest season in Reddick’s professional career. He acknowledged playing 161 games, including the five games of the ALDS, takes a toll.

“You’ve got to learn how to prepare yourself every day and every night. It doesn’t just start toward the end of the season,” he said. “You have to learn how to eat healthy and take care of your body from day one. I really learned that really well this year. I learned to ice the body and get in the cold tub every now and then and get into the hot tub before you start the day.

“A lot of people don’t realize eating healthy and eating right is a big key. I find myself eating a lot of white chicken meat and a lot of rice.”

Reddick also became good friends with Crisp, and the Athletics’ clubhouse became known for its loose attitude — even introducing its fans to “the Bernie,” a dance from  based on the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” which became Inge’s at-bat introduction.

“You’ve got to credit Bob Melvin with that,”  Reddick said of the Athletics manager. “He let us do our own thing.”

While the A’s celebrated their division title by doing the “Bernie Lean,” Reddick also gained notoriety by donning a Spiderman costume and darting onto the field after a game to deliver a shaving cream pie into Crisp’s face as he conducted a postgame television interview.

“How many people do you know run out onto the field in a Spiderman outfit to pie somebody? That doesn’t happen a whole lot,” Reddick said. “He let us have fun.”

Gripped by playoff fever
Oakland’s mad dash to the finish line to win the division also was a new experience. Though Reddick had been in a playoff chase before — having been part of Boston’s postseason push that fell short on the season’s final day in a September meltdown — the Athletics’ first playoff appearance in six seasons brought a new energy to Oakland’s Coliseum.

The Athletics won their division at 94-68, winning their last six games of the regular season and eight of their final 10 games. They beat Texas by one game, rallying in the season finale.

Oakland posted the second-best regular-season mark in the American League, just one game behind the New York Yankees. They trailed 5-1 in the fourth inning in the last game of the regular season, storming back to take a 12-5 win over Texas and with it, the AL West division flag.

“That last week was a blast,” Reddick said. “They filled the stadium for the entire week. That was the loudest park I’ve been part of. To win our last seven games to take the division title on the last day, and in the last game we were down 5-1 in the third inning and ended up spanking them. It was a good feeling to do that in front of the home crowd and celebrate with those folks.”

Just by dint of finances, the A’s weren’t expected to compete. Oakland’s team salary at the end of the 2012 season was the lowest among the 30 major league teams — by nearly $2 million at $59.4 million. By contrast, AL West Division rivals Texas and Los Angels combined to spend $294 million in team payroll.

“I was very proud of not only what I did, but what this whole team did,” Reddick said. “We proved it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to win a division. We used all 25 guys on our roster to win ballgames. You have to credit a young pitching staff for what they did. They kept us in a lot of ballgames. We used everybody and found a way to mesh with each other and find wins.”

Oakland’s lineup has changed already, including Gomes’ departure. Inge, shortstop Cliff Pennington and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy are gone, but the A’s signed power-hitting outfielder Chris Young. The pitching staff returns starters Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone, and highly-touted prospect Dan Straily could be ready to help the big club.

Meanwhile, outfielder Josh Hamilton left the Rangers and signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels.

“It’s going to make our job tougher when we go to Orange County. But we’ve done it before,” Reddick said. “Let ’em keep spending money and we’ll keep putting it on them and hopefully win another division.”

Reddick will head west in January to shoot the Athletics’ commercials and he’ll head back to Arizona for the start of spring training on Feb. 14. He lived in Walnut Creek, about 20 minutes outside of Oakland, last season. His two-bedroom furnished apartment was $4,000 a month, and gas for his vehicle was $4.40 a gallon. For 2,000 square feet of house and three acres of land in Effingham County, Reddick’s monthly payment is $1,300.

“It just goes to show you just how much different stuff is there,” he said.