By RENALDO DORSETT
MAJOR League Baseball veteran Antoan Richardson hopes he can serve as a mentor to the current group of Bahamian minor league prospects, and if there is anyone that can help facilitate this process, it is the former 35th round draft pick who successfully progressed through the minors to the majors.
Richardson, now with the Texas Rangers franchise, has been relegated to Single A baseball as he continues to recover from back surgery for a herniated disc suffered in March.
“Rehab has been going well, I’m progressing pretty good. Right now I’m in a phase where I’m playing in some games and got up to five innings the other day. I’m just trying to work up to playing nine innings and playing for multiple days at the same time trying to get into the swing of baseball, swinging the bat again, running the bases and doing those type of things. I’m pretty confident I’m on the right track and I anticipate in the near future being in some games as an active player as opposed to a rehab guy,“ Richardson said speaking from Arizona.
“I anticipate after a couple games here to finish up my rehab stint, I should be back to the level people have been accustomed to. I think being here is helpful just to get my confidence up. It’s a lot of guys out of high school, junior college guys, a lot of kids that just came up from the Dominican Republic and a few older guys that are rehabbing as well.”
He said the time in the AZL league has given him an opportunity to interact with younger players, particularly the several Bahamian players currently in the league, including Byron Murray with the San Francisco Giants, Dario Saunders with the Cincinnati Reds and Todd Isaacs of the Cleveland Indians.
“I was just talking to some of those guys the other day and I realised the last time I played in this league was 2005. It’s good to see the guys come out and they’re enthusiastic about the game, but it’s a long road and I’ve been encouraging them to stay the course. Being able to have that influence on some young guys is important to me. It’s important to get your foot in the door and get this opportunity, but no one dreams of that, they dream of making the major leagues and getting that hit in the World Series,” he said.
“All these kids I make sure that I reach out to them. All the guys in Arizona League I try to take them out to dinner and talk about the game. I know sometimes it may be difficult for them to reach out but I encourage them if they’re going through something and they need some advice to use my number. Whatever they’re going through I probably experienced it. I had the rare opportunity of being drafted out of high school, junior college and four year college, I’ve played minor league ball, major league ball and international ball travelling with Great Britain. I encourage them to lean on me when they have to if they have questions or are going through anything. I want them to have 10-year careers in the big leagues and if there’s any way I can help them with advice I will try to impart that.”
In his capacity as one of the founding members of Maximum Development Sports Academy, Richardson lauded the country’s success on the recent International Signing Day with four free agents signed, including Larry Alcime Jr and Kyle Simmons to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jasrado Chisholm to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Lucius Fox Jr to the San Francisco Giants.
“These kids are way more talented than I am. What they have to remember is the journey to the major leagues is not always glamorous. The test is definitely going to be the mental toughness and being able to deal with adversity,” Richardson said. “They all have the ability, I hope they all stay the course, and it’s important that systems are put in place to facilitate their success. Once they get into the game and they understand baseball is more than just the game between the lines, it’s a business with a lot of moving parts and it takes more than just hitting a baseball to get to the major leagues.”
Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 27th round of the 2011 draft, Richardson continued his career at American Heritage and Vanderbilt University until he was drafted for the third time, this time by the San Francisco Giants in the 35th round in 2005.
He made his MLB debut in September 2011 with the Atlanta Braves and received his second MLB call up last season in a much acclaimed 13-game stint with the New York Yankees. He signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers this past offseason.
Richardson said that in the very near future, International Signing Day should be a traditional day of celebration for Bahamians.
“I think there are a lot of kids in the Bahamas that you are going to see in that same situation. It was a big deal, and it should have been, but I think three-four years down the line we will not be talking about this day because it will be a common theme. July 2 will be the day that we expect several Bahamians to be signed to affiliated baseball. We are going to get to the point where we celebrate guys on opening day major league rosters and on rosters throughout the year. There are a lot of athletic kids that can play the game and hopefully they inspire kids because the more they are playing it, the more opportunities we have to find guys with this potential,“ Richardson said.
“The credit goes to these players. They are the ones that put in the work, they are the ones that come to the park everyday to do what they do. We may guide them one way or the next but it’s up to them to actually put in the work that they need to get to this point. I think it is important to see it in every kid. If someone didn’t see it in me I wouldn’t be here. I wasn’t supposed to succeed, I wasn’t supposed to make to the levels I have so I think it’s important to spread your wings as far as you can and help as many people as you can because the one kid you don’t help could be that one with that potential to make it.”