BALTIMORE -- Exactly four months ago, Joey Rickard was a fringe Rays prospect on the outside looking in. Despite soaring through the minors last season and hitting .321 at three different levels, the Rays left him off their 40-man roster. But on December 10th, Rickard -- who was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic at the time -- was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 draft. Two months later, the 24-year-old outfielder was in his first big league camp, a long shot to make the big club. Thanks to a monster spring in which his .397 average was second-best in the Grapefruit League, Rickard made the Opening Day roster. But wait, there's more: Rickard has started all four games for the undefeated O's, including the last two as leadoff hitter, and is tied for second in the AL in hitting (.467). Already a fan favorite, folks at Camden Yards have already taken to chanting “Jo-ey, Jo-ey” whenever he comes to the plate. Besides being the talk of the town, he's also a big Denzel fan, a poor free throw shooter and a momma's boy. But don't our word for it. Take his.
Favorite flick: Man on Fire. Denzel Washington. It was a movie we watched on bus trips in college just to kind of amp everybody up. It's the one where he's a bodyguard for a little girl in Mexico and people think he's really selfish but it turns out he's not. He sacrifices a lot for a family he doesn't really know that well. It's got some pretty good scenes. I've probably seen it about 20 times.
Music mania: A guy named Mac Miller. He's a hip hop guy, a rapper. He's up and coming. He's pretty underground, but he's got a few songs on the radio. One of my buddies from the Rays, Tommy Coyle, got me into him. The song called "Loud" is a very amped pump-up song. I like listening to it in the weight room, and it's on my pregame playlist.
Hidden talent: I'm ambidextrous. It comes from my mom. She's ambidextrous too. I did everything with both hands until right around Little League, when my dad just said, "Alright, you're going to throw lefty." I was a pitcher then. He let me switch hit until he saw a better side, and then he picked one -- it was righty. My last lefty at-bat was a tournament before I was going into high school. It was a pretty competitive high school and he wanted me to make the team as a freshman, and I wasn't going to do it swinging from the left side. I write lefty, eat my food lefty, I shoot baskets righty, throw a football righty. I bowl lefty, golf righty. But I can putt either way.
Most embarrassing moment: High school basketball, I airballed a free throw. We were away too, so I heard it from the fans for the rest of the game. It was freshman year, and I was trying to be all cool with everybody. That didn't help. For being a decent shooter, I was pretty below average at the line. I think it was mental.
Earlierst memory: I remember my first day of preschool in Green Valley, Nevada. I remember my mom driving me in a gold Pathfinder, and getting dropped off and not being too happy about it. I was kind of a whiner. I was a momma's boy, so I didn't want to be left without her. I would fake sick a lot. I learned that at a young age. That was my go-to, and it usually worked. I was good at it.
Guilty pleasure: I like Justin Bieber a little bit. He's come a long way, so I'm finally admitting that I listen to him. The new album is fabulous. In the clubhouse, I'm four games into my career, so I'm going to keep it on the DL for now. "Sorry" is my favorite. I watched him on the Grammys. His performance was great. I haven't seen him in concert. He was in Vegas a couple weeks ago, and then he was in Phoenix right after that and all my friends were going. But I still haven't made it to one. I would if I could, but I'd be pretty low-key about it. I wouldn't be Instagramming or anything like that.
Biggest obstacle: I was a public school guy, but then went to a real strict Catholic school for high school. Everybody went to Catholic schools before and knew what was going on, but I didn't. We had mass every week. I wasn't ready for that. I'm not Catholic. I didn't know the prayers, but everybody else had it down. I just had to follow and learn. They had a hard dress code, too. Long sleeve button-up shirt, blue vest, and khakis. Every day. That was hard, because I love my shoes and my clothes.
One thing people don't know: I play the keyboard. I bought a Yamaha from Guitar Center in Las Vegas a couple months ago, and I'm learning. It was my Christmas gift to myself. I shipped it out here with my car. I'm teaching myself on YouTube. It's going slowly, but it's going. The Weeknd has a couple good songs on the keyboard that I'm working on. Bieber has some good ones. I looked up an Alanis Morissette song. In spring training, I was playing every day. Now it's more like three or four times a week. No longer that 45 minutes or an hour, because I get frustrated. I'll sing along to get the rhythm down, but I was going to perform, I wouldn't sing at all. Not yet, anyway.