By JOE McFARLAND
Throw a dart against a wall map and, chances are, Scott Richmond has played baseball there.
“The food, the cultures, the experience, the people especially,” Richmond beams about the stops he’s made along his baseball journey. “But for me, it’s the love of the game. It’s really interesting to see the world through baseball and I’ve been really fortunate.”
Getting to share the experience with his wife and three daughters has made it even more special for the 38-year-old. He spent the winter working out, believing he had more in the tank. While spending some time as colour commentator for Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training broadcasts, it had some people wondering whether the broadcast booth was where he was heading next.
As it turned out, baseball isn’t done with Richmond quite yet. In mid-March, he signed with an Italian Baseball League club. It’s another stop on his baseball passport, which has included Korea and China.
“The game’s the same,” Richmond told Alberta Dugout Stories. “You catch it, you hit it, you throw it. It all just comes down to the same and it’s kind of fun to see how things are done elsewhere.”
He stops to think about some of the things we don’t necessarily see here in North America.
“The fans and how they cheer,” he continued. “I never had cheerleaders in baseball before, so that was fun.”
It has been quite the globe-trotting adventure for Richmond, who got his professional start in Alberta.
CAPITAL CITY CRACKER-CATS
Richmond’s story is one of those underdog tales that you can’t help but cheer for.
As has been well-documented, his high school didn’t have a baseball program, so he played amateur summer baseball in western Canada, working on the docks in Vancouver to support himself.
“I just kept trying to climb the ladder, no matter how much movement around and classes I lost in college,” the right-hander admitted. “I was just trying to get myself in front of the best baseball I could to try to see where I would hit my wall.”
Slowly but surely, he was making inroads. At the age of 25 and still unsigned, Richmond caught the attention of the Northern League’s Edmonton Cracker-Cats. He struggled in his debut season in the capital, going 1-4 with a 6.25 ERA in 20 games, registering four saves. In 2006, he became the club’s closer officially, getting eight more saves and putting up a much-better 3.03 ERA.
But he wanted more.
“I’m like, “listen, there’s no way I’m getting out of independent ball being a reliever,'” Richmond recalled. “I said I didn’t throw hard enough and I needed to be starting or I needed to go somewhere else to keep trying to climb the ladder.”
Being that straight-forward with his team was a major turning point in his career, as he wound up with a 10-9 record and a 4.26 ERA on a team that struggled to a last place finish in the North Division. He still has close friends from his stint here, calling it an “amazing experience.” His performance also earned him a tryout with the Toronto Blue Jays in Florida, then a contract, and as Richmond said, “the rest is history.”
“I just kept trying to push and push and get better and love practising and get myself in front of the right people,” Richmond said. “The people who I could get myself in front of, make phone calls, just do whatever it takes.”
“Nobody is going to call you, you gotta go get it.”
THE INTERNATIONAL GAME
Amidst his journey through the Blue Jays system, which included a total of 36 big league games, the Vancouver native was also given his first taste of international baseball. In 2009, Richmond was named to Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic.
“It was a big, proud moment for me,” Richmond said, as more doors opened to him to represent his country, including winning gold with Canada at the Pan American Games in both 2011 and 2015, in what he called a “dream come true.”
That experience, along with the constant bouncing between the Blue Jays and their farm teams, allowed him to test the free agent market in 2012, and in 2013, he signed in Korea.
Richmond doesn’t let the issues surrounding his paychecks there taint the interview, instead focusing on some of the good that came from it.
“Octopus-mouth soup for the pre-game meal was a little different,” he laughed.
His return to Asia in 2016 also helped produce another amazing moment: The Double Play.
Looking back on it, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound hurler admits it’s not something you see on a regular basis. But initially, he didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
“It was different because when you do it abroad, you don’t get all the craziness because you’re not watching it, you don’t know what they’re saying, you don’t know the sports channels,” Richmond said. “You don’t know what’s being said, like on Sportscentre.”
When he started getting phone calls and texts from people he hadn’t heard from in years, he knew it was something different.
THE BOOTH AND BEYOND
When we chatted with Richmond, he was still figuring out what was next. He was “open for anything” as he felt he was still in shape and was still keeping his arm in prime pitching condition.
“I love the game, I love being around the game and anything in that avenue is great,” Richmond said. “I just try to keep a positive outlook on life and I feel along the way, I’ve had a lot of positive interactions with people where if you treat people well, you’ll get treated well back.”
Those interactions and his easy-going attitude almost certainly had an impact on the decision to bring Richmond into the broadcast booth for Blue Jays games. It also gave him an opportunity to watch the game from another perspective. He thinks the sport is growing in Canada, thanks to the success of players like Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay and Russell Martin, and the upcoming talent like Calgary’s Mike Soroka having a “really bright future.”
“I think a lot of organizations know that when they get a Canadian kid, they’re going to work their tail off,” Richmond stated. “They might not be the most-talented individual ever, but we’re hard-nosed grinders and we’re going to give it our all and play our hardest. They like the work ethic we bring.”
It’s that work ethic that is likely playing a part in why Richmond is continuing his playing career overseas. He’s looking forward to the new adventure, while appreciating the path he’s taken, from Edmonton to Italy.
“I wouldn’t have changed it for anything,” Richmond smiles. “It’s been an interesting road, it’s been my road, which has been fun.”