We had a chance to talk with Phillies Employee Assistance Professional, and former pitcher Dickie Noles (right in photo, talking to Scott Palmer) at last night’s Winter Tour. You can listen to the interview in full by clicking here. Some excerpts below.
(on his current role) I’m the employee assistance professional. I handle players and any work-site and job related, or family, or life related issues. I’m a guy they can go to, a mentor for the minor leaguers, and they can find expert consultation.
(on his transition to his current role) It was not that easy. I remember it like yesterday. When I was being persuaded to do this, we had a wonderful guy who was doing it, Dr. William O’Brien. We never had EAPs when I played. We probably needed them more than anyone though, but we didn’t have them.
My first encounter with an EAP was Sam McDowell with the Texas Rangers. The next guy was an EAP state cop, Jimmy Nestor. I looked at him, he looked like Clint Eastwood, and Sam McDowell was a John Wayne looking guy. My thought was when an EAP walked into a room, you didn’t want to talk to them if you didn’t have to. So I was in that state of mind, but these guys persuaded me to it.
I had traveled with Dr. O’Brien. My role was to talk about drugs and alcohol to the minor league players, as well as pitching inside.
It’s very difficult to seek help for anyone, especially males. Building trust is the easiest way to do that. A lot of guys that come from Williamsport, they’re new. All I’m doing is reading policy and procedure, so they’re looking at me as a cop almost. You have to win their trust. Be there, and let them see you and realize that I’m there to help. What helps me is that I’ve been there, I’ve put the uniform on, and I’ve had some problems that I’ve overcame in my life. That helps a little bit too…They look at me and say “Well he’s played the game” so if they want to come to me it makes it a little easier. But then you have to show them you know what the heck you’re talking about.
(on speaking to high school students) I used to do it a lot, I’d like to do more of that. But the way baseball is set up now it’s almost a 365-day a year sort of thing. You have a lot of stuff from the commissioner’s office like steroids and therapeutic use exemptions and that sort of stuff that keeps you tied up. But that’s where my love is. I love kids.
There’s more in there, including some stuff on the 1980 Phillies and his teammate Greg Gross (also at last night’s event), who was a few years older than Noles and who Noles credits for helping to ease the transition into the Major Leagues.
Later on, during the program, Noles was asked as part of the interactive Q&A (in this case by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro) what the defining moment of his career was:
My first game in the big leagues. When I got drafted out of high school, it was rough for me. We didn’t get too many fans [in the minors], so when I got to the big leagues, it was a dream come true. We all want to reach the big leagues, that’s the pinnacle.
I didn’t have to go home to North Carolina and hear a guy ask me “When are you going to make it to the big leagues?”
Noles added that he fell in love with baseball around the time of…the 1969 Mets. “But it was bumpy on the way. The first guy I faced in the big leagues, hit a home run.”