Offseason Spotlight '12: Jeremie Tice
With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s the time of year to appreciate friends and family. With a newborn baby joining his family, Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Jeremie Tice is spending the season doing just that.
Tice, 26, spent last season between high-A Carolina and AA-Akron before an injury halted his season. The College of Charleston alumnus was taken by the Indians in the sixth round of the 2008 draft and posted a .276 average between Carolina and Akron last season within a total of 68 games.
Tice noted that the Carolina League is tough, but there are no excuses – not that he needed any. He hit .282 with the MudCats, which included 12 home runs, 47 RBIs, 20 walks and 44 strikeouts.
“It was tough at first but at the same time, I have a job to do and I just tried to go out and play the game the best I could and have fun,” Tice said.
Before his injury, Tice posted better numbers than the season before. He said his improvements were the result of a few adjustments with his swing and approach. He noted that spending a few years in minor league ball taught him the importance of making adjustments.
“I was able to make some adjustments in the offseason and luckily, it worked out and I just tried to execute the things that I’d worked on with my batting stance,” he said. “When they changed me to being an outfielder, I was able to focus on that a little bit more.”
Tice’s shift to the outfield didn’t occur until he reached Akron. He spent much of his time in Carolina as the designated hitter, a role that he enjoyed but took some time to get used to.
“If you go from playing a position everyday to DH-ing, you’re sitting in the dugout for long periods of time,” Tice explained. “Especially playing up north or in the beginning of the season, your body can get cold and you can get stiff, so I really had to learn how to keep my body warm and to be able to perform in a DH role.”
The DH slot seemed to work well for Tice as he was named to the Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star Team in July.
“All the way up until the all-star break, I played maybe 10 games in the field, so it was a pretty big honor to be named just for hitting as a DH on the team,” he said. “I did enjoy the whole all-star experience. It was in Winston-Salem, which is closest to my house in that whole league, so my family was able to come up and enjoy that and experience it with me.”
The Georgia native advanced from Carolina to Akron in June, where he was shifted to an outfield role. He said it was a tough jump to make, due to the increase in consistency in AA.
Tice said he faced many players in AA-Akron that he’d previously faced in A-Carolina. “They’re more consistent and I imagine that’s how it is as you go up,” he said. “That’s what separates big leaguers from minors leaguers, is consistency, and that was the biggest jump.”
As expected, the caliber of pitching is one of the key differences between all levels of play. Tice noted that pitchers in AA were much more consistent, but the difference didn’t seem to impede him as he managed to hit .262 through 16 games with the Aeros. With his offense remaining solid, one of Tice’s biggest goals for the season was to improve on defense, as he had never played outfield before.
It’s often said that in baseball, your teammates become your family, and Tice was lucky to have someone to relate to.
“I worked a lot with Thomas Neal, he helped me out a lot,” Tice said. “I went up to him because he’s known throughout the organization as a very good outfielder and he works very diligently with outfield, so I just went up to him and tried to pick his brain as much as I could.”
Tice said Neal gave him tips on little ins and outs of fielding, such as where to stand when certain hitters are at the dish.
All seemed to be going well for Tice’s 2012 season until injury stepped in.
Tice suffered from bone spurs in his elbow in mid-July, a condition which was nothing new to him. “It’s just my body naturally produces bone spurs and unfortunately, with the way I swing, it just produces them in my elbow and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it,” he explained. “So it’s just one of those things that as I continue to play, I’ll just have to get it cleaned out every now and then.”
Tice said that he started to lose feeling in his arm in Akron, and the condition worsened as he went on.
“It all happened very, very quickly,” he recalled. “I was sitting on cloud nine playing well at Akron, so I was really excited about how things were going and all the sudden, I started losing feeling in my arm. It would start for an inning while I was playing and I wouldn’t have any feeling. Then, it progressed to two and three innings and I just completely lost feeling for almost two weeks straight.”
The injury put an end to Tice’s season as he underwent surgery the last week of July, just 48 hours after learning of the bone spurs. It was the second surgery he has had in three years.
Tice knows that injuries cannot be controlled, and though it was a disheartening moment, it’s simply part of the game. Though he says his elbow isn’t quite at 100 percent, he’s steadily working hard to come back strong. He started to swing the bat last week and is remaining mindful that his elbow needs care.
As he works to put his injury behind him, Tice has his sights set on the year to come. His biggest goal this time around is to stay healthy and pick up right where he left off.
“Obviously you still want to be more consistent, since that’s how ultimately I get to the big leagues, but I’d definitely like to get better at outfield since that’s the avenue they want me to take now,” he said.
Tice is ready and willing to take whichever route the Cleveland Indians steer him on, but for now, he’s enjoying the pit stop at home with his family. His son turned seven weeks old last Saturday, and is already 16 pounds. As his son continues to grow, Tice hopes to do the same, as an outfielder in the Indians organization.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.