By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WHEN Bahamian San Francisco Giants’ first base coach Antoan Richardson kneeled down during their exhibition game at Oakland on Monday night, it was primarily a decision to honour his deceased great-grandmother Dame Bertha Isaacs, a former Bahamian teacher, tennis player, women’s rights activist, politician and a former freedom fighter for social justice.
“I knew this year would turn out the way it did,” said Richardson of the stoppage of all sporting activities around the world because of the spread of the coronavirus and the social unrest after the death of American George Floyd.
“She was one who fought for equality, social justice, freedom for all and I knelt on all of those principals that he fought for. With the climate and the way things have been in our world and in America, I was just brought to my knees in prayer.”
During the week leading up to the return of Major League Baseball for a shortened season that started last night, Richardson and the Giants played with no fans after a month-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Richardson, a former St Anne’s School track and field star, was joined by first-year San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler and outfielders Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater, just before they pulled off a 6-2 victory.
In his initial coaching sting for the Giants, who drafted him in the 35th round of the Major LeagueBaseball Draft before he went on to play for the Atlanta Braves in 2011 and the New York Yankees in 2014, Richardson said he was forced to ask himself the question ‘why do I stand for the national anthem?’
“In asking myself that question, I came to the conclusion to just pray. So I decided that I would get on my two knees and I would just pray for hearts to change and for the promise of freedom and justice for all. I pray that issues that my great-grandmother and so many others fought for, that someday it would really happen.”
Hoping that one day the gap on the social unrest will be closed, or even eradicated, Richardson said he was just led to pray and that was why he took to his knees. All through his professional career until he retired on March 7, 2017 at 33 years of age, Richardson remembered wearing the number 00 on his jersey in honour of Isaacs, the grandmother of his mother, Glendia Huyler, the sister of Dr Phil Huyler.
Richardson, who spent 12 years playing professionally, the majority in the minor league, said just about everybody who knelt, did it because they wanted to see a change.
“I got a lot of text messages from people saying thank you for taking that stance,” Richardson said. “You don’t realize it in the moment, but when you have an opportunity to be a voice for those who don’t have an opportunity to have their voices made louder, you use your platform for that,” he insisted.
“Obviously, there are people who are not happy about it, but there are a lot of people who reached out and was just really thankful and proud that UI took that stance. It’s something that I believe in and what I stand by. I just continue to pray that with all, including me, will change our hearts, to help us on this dream.”
While it wasn’t orchestrated by the team, Richardson said he’s not sure if it will be continuous trend kneeling when the national anthem is played, considering the fact that Major League began its shortened 2020 season last night.
“I don’t know what I will do. But when the moment happen, I will fall on my knees and continue to pray,” he stated. “Hopefully believers will do the same. But I’m going to take that 90 seconds and just pray. If I do, I will ask others who want a change to pray as well so that we can see this change.”
The Giants were scheduled to be a part of the opening day festivities as they took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the nightcap in Los Angeles on Major League opening day on Thursday night.
“It was a little nerve wrecking. After these 21 days of training camp went so well, it’s good to be able to competed again,” said Richardson in an interview with The Tribune just before the season started.
“You don’t take it for granted. With so much going on all around us, we are all looking forward to the opening of the season and competing again. We are also mindful of all that is going on around us and we won’t take that for granted.”
During the pre-season camp, Burrows admitted that it was a totally different environment that he experienced when he was playing.
“We didn’t have as much time as we normally do to wrap up, so it was a really accelerated process,” he stressed. “But our goal was to see how we would get prepared as possible to play on July 23.
“I think a lot of the players did a lot of work during the down time to stay as ready as possible and it showed when they came into camp, so that helped to speed up the process. We can only turn up the process. We’re in a good position to just push forward this season.”
After being named as a field coordinator and minor league outfield coordinator for San Francisco in February 201, Richardson was elevated on December 23, 2019 as the first-base coach with the added responsibility of coaching Giants baserunners and outfielders.
“I am still learning and trying to figure out every detail this role entitles,” Richardson pointed out. “It’s a lot of work to be prepared to try and help the team and to be able to get the information to the players to help them to compete against our opponents.
“So I’m still trying to figure it out. I might have a better answer when the season is all said and done. But I’m prepared to go for the long haul, or as long as the Giants will have him as a part of their team.”
Following the completion of their opening game last night, the Giants are scheduled to play three more games this weekend against the Dodgers as they officially get their abbreviated 60-game schedule (less than the normal 162 games) underway. With no fans in the fans, the season is expected to be concluded by the end of September.
“It’s going to be a sprint with very few off days,” Richardson noted. “Every game will be that much important. Every game is worth a little more than our usual season, o it’s important to just come out and compete hard from day one, lay it all out there and see where it leads us.”
Similar to the National Basketball Association, which will be playing all of their games out of a bubble in Orlando as they resume the remainder of their season on July 30 after they took a break in March, Major League is using a semi bubble they are confined to themselves without a fan base nd where the concentration is heavily on testing for the coronavirus as well.
“We test everyone every other day,” Richardson said. “So it’s a pretty hectic process, but they are doing their job to ensure that everybody stay safe.”
Only family members are allowed around the players and officials and they are also tested and asked to remain committed to the process by not getting into any extra social activities that are not prescribed by the team away from the game itself.
Richardson like the position that the Giants find themselves in, rebuilding a team that do not have any players with more than 21 home runs or 87 runs batted in (RBI) in 2019. They come in to the season with the fourth-worst batting verge in the league from last year.