Josh Reddick tore up the competition in the South Atlantic League this past season for the Greenville Drive.
The former South Effingham High School slugger led the Boston Red Sox’ Single-A affiliate in hitting with a .308 average and showed he had some power, belting 18 home runs in 369 at-bats.
“I think the season went great,” Reddick said. “Being a first-year guy at 20 years old and hitting over .300 is usually a great year for a first-year player. I go out there and do what I can for the team.”
Since making his professional debut on May 20, where he went 2-for-4 for the Drive, Reddick has made noise in Red Sox nation.
Soxprospects.com named him the 2007 rookie of the year and compared him to former Yankee great Paul O’Neill.
After the Drive’s season concluded, the Red Sox organization brought Reddick up to Double-A to play for the Eastern League’s Portland Sea Dogs in their Northern Division playoff series.
Though the Sea Dogs lost and Reddick went 0-for-5 in three games, he said the promotion was valuable.
“I didn’t get to play much, but it was a great experience going up there and learning from the guys,” he said. “I learned about the way they pitch you. The pitchers threw all the pitches where they wanted to and they knew what they were doing to get you out.”
Reddick hopes to be back to Double-A next season, but he said he will probably start the spring in high Single-A ball in Lancaster, Calif.
In the meantime, he is back home in Guyton working out and hitting with his former high school coach and current mentor Tony Kirkland.
“He’s been a great influence on my success,” Reddick said. “I call him about every other night and he’s been there for me. I can call him anytime and when I’m struggling he knows what to tell me.”
Kirkland, who called Reddick the best player he’s ever coached, said he’s seen much improvement in Reddick. Kirkland has been coaching baseball since 1989.
“His bat speed has improved tremendously,” Kirkland said. “You listen to people who have been around the game and they say you really struggle your first year in the pros, but Josh hit over .300 in his first year and that’s phenomenal. I was very fortunate to watch him play four times this year.”
Both Reddick and Kirkland credit much of Reddick’s success to playing in a wood bat league the summer prior to being drafted.
“If he’s impressive with an aluminum bat, it doesn’t mean he can swing with a wooden bat,” Kirkland said. “They said guys who can make the transfer and not have problems with it they’ll be all right, that’s him. He made the transfer with the wooden bat and never had any problems with it.”
“Playing in the wooden bat league before I signed helped me a lot,” Reddick said. “I went to spring training and was hitting every day with a wooden bat and I tried to show them what I could do and it worked out in the long run.”
With Reddick more than likely across the country next season in California, Kirkland said it will be difficult to watch him play, but he said he will try to make it happen.
“I will find a way one way or another,” he said. “Josh and I have developed a bond. I don’t go a week where I don’t talk to him at least two or three times.”
Kirkland thinks Reddick is on the fast track and will make it to the major leagues soon.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” Kirkland said. “It’s a great thing for Effingham County and a great thing for South Effingham High School. I think he has a nice little fan base that keeps up with him on Internet and that’s great.”
Boston drafted Reddick in the 17th round, with its 21st overall pick, in 2006 and expected him to be a contact hitter.
While Reddick has made great contact with the ball, the big club is apparently excited about his power potential.
Reddick said he’s going down to Fort Myers, Fla. on Wednesday to work on being a power hitter.
“It’s going to be different because growing up I never was a power hitter, but this is what they want to develop me into,” he said. “Putting up big numbers in the home run and RBI column will be good. I’ll go with what they want me to do.”
Opposing pitchers beware, because Reddick said his approach at the plate will not change.
“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “I don’t go up there and change a thing. I let the ball get off the bat. If it goes out that’s good and if not, then it doesn’t.”
Reddick said he’ll come back home after working out in Fort Myers and then return for spring training in March.