ST. PETERSBURG - Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey pleaded no contest today to a charge of driving drunk when his pickup struck a car near Tropicana Field.
Hickey's license was suspended for six months, and he was sentenced to one year of probation, though he has the right to ask that the probation be terminated early. The sentence was described by his attorney as typical for a first-time driving-under-the-influence offender.
By the time he walked into traffic court today, Hickey, 46, had attended DUI school, performed more than 50 hours of community service and paid full restitution, said his attorney, Jack Helinger.
"I hope the community ....takes notice you admitted you did something you shouldn't have," County Judge William Overton told Hickey in court.
On Sept. 30, at roughly 11 p.m., Hickey was at the wheel of a Ford F150 pickup when he rear-ended a car driven by a 19-year-old Devil Rays bat boy at First Avenue South and 16th Street, just outside Tropicana Field, according to a St. Petersburg police report. Then Hickey kept driving, the report says.
Patrol officers tried pulling Hickey over on Interstate 275 and, a half mile later, Hickey pulled over at Gandy Boulevard, the report says. Hickey stumbled as he exited the truck and fell to the ground, the report says. He initially refused to present his hands to be handcuffed, the report says.
Hickey was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on charges of driving under the influence, hit-and-run with property damage and resisting arrest without violence.
He pleaded no contest to the first two charges, and the resisting arrest charge was expected to be dropped by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, said Helinger.
Hickey was hired Nov. 18, 2006, to replace Mike Butcher after being fired by the Houston Astros the previous season. A resident of St. Cloud, near Orlando, Hickey had spent 16 years in the Astros' organization, serving as the pitching coach in Houston from July 2004 through the end of the 2006 season. His pitching staffs, led by Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, finished second in the National League in earned-run average in 2005 and 2006.
Hickey inherited a far less experienced group of pitchers in Tampa Bay, and the staff struggled - particularly the relievers. The bullpen improved in the second half of the season after significant turnover, but the Rays finished with a 5.53 ERA, worst in the major leagues.
Helinger said today Hickey remains a pitching coach for the Rays.