Nickerson has 'team first' attitude
It's not about numbers for Dartmouth baseball's team captain Brian "B-Nick" Nickerson '00. He doesn't even know his batting average or the fact that he is second in the league at .387 (only .002 from first), or that he's tied for first in homeruns with a career-high of 10. Nickerson just goes out to play and lead by example, and he tops the team in average, home runs, RBIs (47) and slugging percentage (.669) while starting all of the 40 games this season.
Filling Conway's Shoes
Nickerson had some big shoes to fill this season, those of his co-captain and best friend last year, Mike Conway '99. Conway started every game at third base and led off for the Big Green.
"A sign of a great player is how they make players around them better, like Mike Conway did last year, and that's what Brian has been able to do this season," said Head Coach Bob Whalen.
"Fielding every ground ball coming in, playing every slow roller -- Mike Conway's trademark play -- he makes all the big plays," says first baseman Aaron Meyer '00.
At the forefront of Dartmouth's panel of strong senior leaders, alongside the likes of Conor Brooks, James Little, Meyer and Jon Miller, Nickerson has been a great influence as a quiet leader. He tries to make his impression on the underclassmen the best way he knows how -- getting the job done himself.
Emphasizing his "team first" approach, Nickerson remarked, "I hope that my approach has rubbed off on the rest of the team and the underclassmen especially."
While still not taking full credit for anything himself, he comments, "It's this senior class that has just been unbelievable and has made everyone on the team great competitors."
"B-Nick's a great guy to have around, he's always got a smile on his face. I'm glad to know that he's the last guy that touches the ball before he gives it to me," said starting pitcher Jeff Dutremble '01.
Coach Whalen echoes, "He has the absolute respect of the team and the staff he's solidified himself as a vocal leader.When he says something, his teammates listen."
To Nickerson, baseball is not about playing for himself, but it's about getting done what needs to be done. "This year, I'm lucky enough just to be out here playing baseball," he said. "I don't want to take a selfish approach at all, I want to do as much as I can to help the team, whatever the situation."
It wasn't so easy for Nickerson do get where he is now. This fall, his recovery from knee surgery didn't allow him to run with the team; this summer, he couldn't even fully bend his knee, and at the end of spring last year he was in the hospital fighting a staph infection on IV for a month.
"To be on an IV for a month is pretty serious. All summer even when I was rehabbing I wasn't even thinking about being where I am now. It was almost unfathomable that I've come this far."
Having struggled with knee problems since his freshman year in high school, Nickerson thought his knee problems were over, when he was named to the "Collegiate Baseball" All-America first team, leading the Ivies in hitting at .463 and doubles with 18.
Nickerson describes the last three years as "a pretty unbelievable run." In his freshman year at Dartmouth his mother suddenly passed away. At the beginning of his sophomore year he injured his knee again and was forced to undergo surgery to repair a bone chip under his kneecap, forcing him to miss the whole season.
It wasn't until the last two weeks of his junior season that his knee troubles returned again. "I actually had surgery on the day of the last game hoping to be back for summer baseball." Recovery wasn't so quick to follow, though, as a staph infection forced two more surgeries.
"I was more worried about, when I'm 40 years old will I be able to go for a walk in the mountains or a bike ride when I want to?"
Return from injuries
After intensive physical therapy over the summer and a progressive increase in the number of activities he could perform at practice, Nickerson had recovered fully and began to establish himself at third base.
In regard to his play at third this season, Coach Whalen commented, "It doesn't surprise me in the least when I told him this is what I wanted to do, and he completely embraced it with no qualms."
"With baseball there's a certain mentality that comes when you know that every day you're playing shortstop and hitting fifth, and last year I didn't feel that. This year at third base there's more stability," he said.
Stability at third base is what we've seen this year, with Nickerson starting all 40 games this season and establishing himself at the hot corner as well as providing the offensive spark to keep Dartmouth in every ball game they've played from Princeton to the University of Miami.
Chris Miranda '01 stated, "[Nickerson] probably has the biggest role on the team." Although Nickerson denied it, saying, "The biggest success has been that everyone has bought into the team concept " what can they do to help the team win on a given day?"
Playing for a fifth and final year of eligibility, Nickerson will return as team captain to lead the Big Green to another Ivy playoff run, and after this weekend's results, quite possibly another Ivy championship.