By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
While he was not fortunate to get out of the United States of America before the Bahamas Government closed its border for international travel because of the spread of the coronavirus, former Major League Baseball player turned coach Antoan Richardson is making the best of his conditions in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The 36-year-old switch hitting centre fielder with a .350 professional career batting average was participating in the San Francisco Giants’ major league training camp in January. When the pandemic hit the USA, he was originally scheduled to travel home on April 1, but the Bahamas border was closed around March 27.
“It was unfortunate. I wished that I had been a little more decisive and I had gotten back home,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “I trust that God has a plan for us all and this is the plan that he has for me. I would love to be home, but I feel I’m in a safe spot, so I’m staying as active every day as best as I can.”
Arizona was among those states that have currently reopened, but Richardson said they are still taking the necessary precautions as there are reportedly about 679 confirmed deaths from over 13,000 cases in the state. There are almost 90,000 deaths from over 1,500,148 cases throughout the USA. Worldwide, there are about 4,664,486 cases and over 300,000 deaths recorded so far.
“They are allowing us to go into restaurants and stuff like that. The numbers are not so high, but it seems as if it’s not been as drastic as it was in some other parts of the United States,” Richardson stated.
In February 2019, Richardson was named as a field coordinator and minor league outfield coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, who then named him their first-base coach under new manager Gabe Kapler, with the added responsibility of coaching Giants baserunners and outfielders.
“It was a fun learning experience. Obviously this would have been my first time doing it as a coach,” said Richardson about his transition from playing to being a scout and now as a coach. “You have to go into it obviously with the idea of bringing some information to help the players and staff, but also that there is a lot to learn.
“That is what I’m trying to do. There’s a lot to be learned about the game. So I’m just trying to continue to grow as a coach in the game that I have played so long. So it’s been a really cool experience. When the lockdown happened there was a lot of uncertainty about what we were going to do. That was why I think I got stuck over here instead of coming home.”
Once they sorted out what direction they were going to take, Richardson said they began ensuring that everyone stayed healthy and safe as they connected through Zoom conferences and giving them drills and activities that they could perform while they were away from the game.
It was the Giants who signed Richardson after they took him in the 35th round of the 2005 Draft and he went on to bat .321/.465 (4th in the league)/.378 with 45 runs (tied for the league lead), 44 walks (leading the league), 7 sacrifice hits (tied for 2nd in the league), 8 hit by pitch (tied for 5th in the league) and 40 stolen bases (leading the league) in 193 at bats for the Rookie AZL.
“It’s still a little surreal. I think this journey that I’ve been on since I left the Bahamas, you don’t question stuff that happens anymore,” said the original former 400 metre runner coming out of Grand Bahama. “You just enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey and thank God for being great. I think that is what it comes down to. I realised that the Father has the ability to do whatever he wants to do and I just try my best to sit back, enjoy the ride and do whatever road he takes me down.”
Richardson became the sixth Bahamian to play in the Major League when he was called up for the first time by the Atlanta Braves on September 4, 2011, and recorded his first career hit, a single to right field, off of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw in his first career Major League at bat. He had another sting in the Major’s with the New York Yankees in 2014.
First drafted in the 27th round in 2001 out of high school, Richardson eventually signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on April 29, 2016 after being released by the Pirates just two days prior. The Dodgers subsequently released him on June 22, 2016 after he hit .222 in 15 games for the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers before he retired on March 7, 2017, at 33 years of age.
Now that he’s back into the league and looking forward to his first coaching sting, Richardson said there is going to be a lot of changes whenever sports resumes, not only in baseball, but in all other disciplines and from an international prospective, as it pertains to the fans participation as a result of the social distancing encouraged to help combat the spread of the virus.
“I still think they (Major League) is in the process of trying to decide the best way forward,” Richardson said. “We have to make sure about the public safety and that of the coaches and players is at an all-time high. When we start to play, I imagine that there will be no fans.
“So if we don’t have no fans, we will have to do our best to really, really compete hard. I think everybody in the Bahamas will be watching us on TV and cheer for their favorite teams, hopefully we will have some coming over to the Giants, if they are not with us yet.”
For the Bahamas, who is still experiencing a 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns to help combat the spread of the virus here where there are almost 100 cases with 11 deaths, Richardson advised the public to continue to follow the direction given by the government.
“This is something that we have to do together, if we want to get through it,” stated Richardson, who has formed a non-profit organization called Project Limestone to assist Bahamian youths learn to respect their peers, work together and to define their goals in the classroom, in sports, and in the community. “It is important to kind of love on each other right now and use this time as an opportunity to do some things that you couldn’t do before.
“Use this time to spread more time on the phone and social media with your love ones. But also know that this too shall pass and at some point, we will be able to do some of the things that we were accustomed to doing. The message is to do it together. As a unit, we can get through this. I just want to encourage people to finds ways that we can get through this.”
As soon as this is over and done with, Richardson said the first thing he would like to give somebody a big hug.
“We as Bahamians love to hug,” he insisted. “So I just want to be able to hug somebody and let them know that I really care about them.”
Before he began his pro career, Richardson left St. Anne’s High School to attend American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Florida where he played baseball and football and was class salutatorian. As a senior he was named to the 2001 Class 1A All-state high school baseball second team by the Florida Sports Writers Association.
He then attended Palm Beach Community College on an athletic scholarship, passing up an opportunity to attend Brown University and Vanderbilt University where he played college baseball. He graduated from Vanderbilt in December 2008 with his degree in engineering science. Now that he’s back in Major League as a coach, Richardson said he’s hoping that one day he can become the manager of a team.