Every successful baseball team needs “glue guys.” These are players who aren’t stars, but are just solid in all aspects of the game. Fred Rico was one of those players. While his ability propelled him to a brief stint in the major leagues, he was never able to stick as a regular.
Born Alfredo Cruz Rico, he was signed as an outfielder out of Arizona in 1964 by the Baltimore Orioles. The smallish right-handed Rico was just 19, when he began his professional career. He debuted with the Fox Cities Foxes of Appleton, Wisconsin in the Midwest league, and had an impressive season. In 117 games, he hit .410 with 16 doubles, 11 triples, 7 home runs, and 88 RBI. Perhaps most impressive was his 66 walks, which contributed to his .410 OBP.
Over the next several years, Rico continued to progress through the Baltimore system, but as he moved up, his production fell. He made it as high as Double-A, playing there from 1966 to 1968, but hit only one home run in those three seasons combined.
Rico finally got a change of scenery when he was taken by the expansion Kansas City Royals in the Rule V draft in December, 1968. It turned out that the move reinvigorated his career and put him on a fast track to the majors.
Rico rebounded to hit .286 with 10 home runs and 84 RBI with Double-A Omaha in 1969. His performance was enough to earn him a September call-up by the hapless Royals, who were on their way to a 93 loss season. Rico got into a total of 12 games with the Royals. He had 6 hits and 2 RBI in 26 official at bats, and drew a surprising 9 walks.
Unfortunately, one of the areas of strength for the Royals was their young outfield, which included Lou Piniella, Amos Otis, and Pat Kelly. He returned to the minors in 1970, and was dealt to the Cardinals in June of that year. Over the next several seasons he played in the minor league systems of the Cardinals, Twins, and Pirates, but never made it back to the majors.
Rico retired following the 1973 season. He accumulated 1,150 minor league hits, good for a .282 batting average. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=rico--001alf. Rico recently responded to a few questions about his career in baseball, which he still remembers fondly.
Fred Rico Questionnaire:
If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: I should have signed out of high school!
What was the strangest thing you ever saw on a baseball diamond?: Bases loaded, winning run at third base; one out. Routine fly ball to left field. The throw accidently hit the runner and he in turn kicked the ball to the catcher for the out.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Jack McKeon, who is the coach of the Florida Marlins.
Who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against?: Dave Parker. He should be in the Hall of Fame (my roommate in 1973- Pittsburgh).
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