Christopher Heats Up For Generals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 7, 2014, 08:21
Nick Christopher's timing at the plate is on target and it's propelling the Generals' offense.
PETERSBURG — In a span of three plate appearances, the Generals' Nick Christopher displayed to everyone in attendance at the Petersburg Sports Complex the type of impact he can have on a game. In successive at-bats, Christopher laid down two perfectly places bunts down the third and first base lines to help jump-start a rally.
Then, with the Edenton Steamers playing the corners in trying to cut off any possible bunt, Christopher laced the first pitch he saw off the left-field wall to drive in one run en route to a 5-for-6 night at the plate during a doubleheader. The offensive explosion came just one week after Christopher was in the midst of a prolonged slump which left his average at .103 and his increased production is a reason why the Generals are optimistic about their chances in the second half of the season.
Christopher's multi-dimensional game at the plate where he can hurt teams with his combination of speed and power in addition to the field where he can shutdown teams on the mound is a deadly combination. However, it should not be surprising to anyone who has come to know the Dinwiddie native.
After all, it could be said the game of baseball is in Christopher's blood.
Nick's father Mike Christopher spent 12 seasons as a professional in both the Minors and Major Leagues for five different organizations. His career began when he was drafted in the 7th round of the 1985 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees and made his debut Sept. 10, 1991 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And it's been his father's influence and guidance which has helped Christopher learn the game and become the player he is.
"There's not many people who go to the pros for one and then have kids who also play baseball, but he's handled it the best way he can," Christopher said of his dad. "He's never been too hard on me, but he doesn't just let me do anything I want ... If I go 0-for-4 or 0-for-5 the whole week, he'll discuss with me what I can do to get out of the slump. He's helped me in so many ways."
But his father could only control so much. It's Christopher's talent on the diamond which has led to success over the course of his playing career. Christopher remembers baseball has always been a fun activity for him, but it wasn't until high school when he realized he could play the game at a higher level.
He recognized it would take hard work, but it was something which could be possible if he put in the effort. Christopher did that and more during his time at Dinwiddie High School. Working hard everyday and trying to improve in each game led to Christopher being named the 2011 Central Region Player of the Year.
His numbers during the season were mind-numbing to view. The senior hit .507 and blasted 10 home runs, but that was not the only place he made an impact. Christopher also led the team on the mound — much like his father did — with an 8-1 record and 1.34 ERA.
However, by the time he made his impact, many Division I schools had already filled out their rosters, leaving little for Christopher to choose from to continue his career. He could have decided to go the junior college route and hope a college takes a chance on him after a few years, but instead he decided to stay home and star at Virginia State University.
"If I didn't have family coming to watch my games or calling me to see how I'm doing, I'd probably lose some interest," Christopher said of playing at Virginia State. "But to have 30 people show up, friends and family, calling me after games and just talking baseball with me ... family is what keeps me going. Even during tough times, that's what pushes me forward."
And it was Christopher who faced some of those tough times earlier this season with the Generals.
After seeing his season end against Winston-Salem State in the CIAA Championship game, Christopher had to wait for nearly a month before seeing live pitching once again. The lack of games played affected him greatly once the Generals' season began.
Last season's Coastal Plain League All-Star recorded just four hits in his first 27 official plate appearances in the 2014 campaign. Normally a top-of-the-order hitter, Christopher found himself hitting toward the bottom of the lineup until he began to heat up.
Just last week, Christopher was named the CPL's hitter of the week after posting a .526 average in six games including one double and a triple. But his offense was only one part of where he made an impact. Christopher's ability to play multiple positions — and do so well, turning double-plays with ease — along with his high baseball IQ impresses those he plays for.
Nick Christopher's versatility in the field gives the Generals plenty of options during any game.
"He's a dynamic player all the way around," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said of Christopher. "He's a tremendous athlete and a fantastic baseball player."
But Christopher refuses to let himself think about his own personal successes or try to follow in his father's footsteps. He's his own type of player — one who is admittedly more athletic than the elder Christopher. However, there is one aspect which brings a lot of pride to the modest infielder.
Unlike some players who handicap themselves to one particular position, Christopher is known to play wherever he can help the team. It's why he's played third, second and pitched for the Generals after playing shortstop for the Trojans. The more flexibility he brings, the more he can help bring success to his teams.
"I've always been a player who will do whatever the coach asks me to do," he explained. "If I need to catch, I'll go wherever best helps the team."
It's his willingness to do whatever it takes to win in addition to both his talent and baseball pedigree which makes Christopher a critical piece to the Generals lineup. While he likely won't hit over .500 the rest of the way, his leadership on the field could help Petersburg navigate the second half of the season and find a way into the playoffs.