All-American D.J. Hicks preps for a better season
Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011
Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011 14:06
For the first time in school history, the UCF baseball team has had back-to-back All-American players.
D.J. Hicks bounced back after struggling through only six games in 2010 because of an injury, earning a spot on the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-America Third Team.
The honor is the icing on the cake of a season filled with individual accolades for the redshirt sophomore, ranging from Conference USA Hitter of the Week to the NCAA Tallahassee Regional All-Tournament Team to a semifinalist for the NCBWA Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to the nation's top player.
"Obviously it's a pretty big award for the end of the year, and obviously I'm very excited," Hicks said. "My coach [head coach Terry Rooney] gave me a call, and he's the one who congratulated before I had any idea. I'm super excited and it's a good way to kind of finish the year off."
The designated hitter led the Knights with a .351 batting average and chased fellow power hitter Jonathan Griffin in home runs, hitting 14. He earned C-USA and national recognition the week of April 19-24 when he went 10-for-21 with three home runs and 13 RBI, picking up three Hitter of the Week titles. He paced C-USA with 66 RBI on the season.
Since Hicks was not selected in the MLB draft two weeks ago, he will return to UCF as the potential first baseman. Though Griffin started every game at first base this season, Hicks has experience and he's adding to it. He's playing the position this summer for the Bourne Braves, a team in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
"I've played two games up here at first base; so far so good," Hicks said.
Hicks hopes he'll have the opportunity to play first next season.
"Whatever will put UCF in a better position to win would be what I'd like," he said.
Also a relief pitcher, Hicks doesn't think he'll pitch in Cape Cod. His focus is on working out to get his strength completely back.
First baseman, relief pitcher or not, he'll return to UCF as a leader, especially since the Knights have lost a handful of upperclassmen to graduation and the MLB draft.
"Coach Rooney has put that on me this year as well," Hicks said. "But guys like me, Darnell Sweeney, Ronnie Richardson, we try to lead the team in the best direction on and off the field."
Sweeney and Richardson are also in Cape Cod for the summer, where the three will meet on the diamond again — on opposing teams. Sweeney, Richardson and Hicks will also face left-hander Joe Rogers, who is a member of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.
"I think it'll be fun," Hicks said about playing the Harwich Mariners, Sweeney's and Richardson's team. "Playing here you play against a lot of guys. I've got a couple of guys from Tulane on my team. A few summers ago I had guys from Memphis. So it's always fun. You get to see how other people play and you get to see what Darnell's like and what Ronnie's like outside of UCF and it'd be a good time, not weird at all."
While Hicks has a handful of accomplishments to choose from, he said that the support he received in coming back from his year off was the most important part of his season. Meanwhile, his All-America status fuels him to make himself and his team better.
"I have very high standards for myself so this sets the bar," Hicks said. "I've got to set it a little higher next year and make sure that we accomplish everything we did this year and more. Next year, our goal is to host a regional rather than travel somewhere and that'll just help us on our way to Omaha."