Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Resolve Well and Persevere: The Scott Richmond Story

By
Image courtesy of MLB.com
The typical path for a young pitcher to the major leagues is a fairly linear process. Play baseball in high school, go to college, get drafted, and play in the show.

But Scott Richmond isn’t your typical pitcher, and his journey to the big leagues isn’t your typical story. As a 29 year old rookie who is finding success as a starting pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, Richmond has taken many twists and turns throughout his career, which eventually led him to Toronto.

Along the way, Scott’s father has been there every step of the way. I had a chance to speak with Dr. Bob Richmond, proud father of Blue Jays pitcher Scott Richmond, and talk to him about his son’s path towards the major leagues.

When I asked Dr. Bob about Scott’s childhood and where he developed his love of the game, Scott was a well-rounded athlete who not only enjoyed baseball, but soccer as well.
"Being a Kiwi, my cultural heritage was not molded around the game of hockey, so the thought of early mornings scraping ice off the car and then sitting on cold bleachers, in a large refrigerated room, watching my kids practice hockey, never appealed to me the way it does to most Canadian dads.

Very early in the piece I told my kids, "You can play any sport you like, as long as it's played outside, on grass, in the day time," and that was that. Baseball, soccer and rugby became the sports of choice. Scott was a great soccer player as a kid, and had developed quite a reputation as a goal scorer on Vancouver's North Shore. He often used to score 3-4 goals in a game.

As for baseball, he started out with T-Ball like most kids, progressed from that through the various levels, but from the start he was always a good pitcher for his age group. He was also one of the better batters too."

"He grew up with two younger brothers who were also very good athletes, and as you might imagine they competed over everything. I remember a Little League game where Scott was pitching and his younger brother Stirling was catching.

Scott kept shaking off his catcher's signs, wanting to stay with the 'heat,' but after repeatedly refusing to give in to his catcher's demands, Stirling tore off his mask and charged the mound to give Scott a piece of his mind.

There they were, brothers, team mates, chin to chin yelling at each other, waving their hands around, prompting the umpire to rush over and break it up, before they came to blows. I had to smile at their competitiveness. They didn't care who was watching."
I asked his father if Scott had any baseball idols while he was growing up.
"Most definitely it had to be the Texas fireballer Nolan Ryan. He wore Ryan's #34 whenever he was able to, Missouri Valley, Oklahoma State, and with the Edmonton Cracker Cats in the Northern League and possibly other times too."
Dr. Bob, who is a chiropractor now living in New Brunswick, used his knowledge of body mechanics to help develop his son’s career from a young age.
"When he was a little kid, I bought a milk crate full of baseballs from second hand sports stores all over Vancouver, and I used to string an old bedspread between a couple of trees and have him throw at it left-handed.

If you work the other side of your body to try to balance out all of that torquing in one direction that your body is subjected to from pitching, it’s going to help your longevity and survivability as a pitcher.

That coupled with regular chiropractic adjustments from birth to allow the body to grow and develop in a symmetrical manner and function without any nerve interference from spinal misalignments."
Richmond continued to pitch throughout his teenage years, but it wasn’t until Scott arrived at Oklahoma State University that his father noticed that Scott’s talent stood out.
"It wasn’t until he was in college that I started watching more MLB baseball and comparing the way he looked and the way he threw to guys who were already in the major leagues, and in my opinion his mechanics were better than a lot of them even at that point. This was when I first admitted to myself that I felt that he had the potential to pitch in the major leagues one day."
Scott’s journey to the major leagues has led him to Moosejaw, Oklahoma State, Edmonton, and even as far away as Hawaii. Bob recalls a brief period where his son was a bit of an outcast as a Canadian kid, the only non Hawaiian on his team, playing out in the islands.
"I remember he played in Hawaii for a year and because he was from the mainland, they wouldn’t pitch him. One day the guy who was scheduled to pitch didn’t show up, so they gave him the ball, and he did so well, that after that, he pitched every other game for the rest of the season."
Scott Richmond’s will and determination helped him progress throughout his career, but there was a point in time a couple of years ago where Dr. Bob recalls that Scott was just about ready to call it quits if he wasn't able to break into the affiliated minor leagues after 3 seasons of Indy ball.
"He was 28 years old and time was running out for him, especially in the eyes of MLB scouts etc. and he knew it. We all knew that he had the talent, he'd proved himself at every level, but he still wasn't given that one chance that he had worked so hard for.

I remember when he got the call to try out for the Blue Jays in Florida. He was extremely excited as he knew that this might be his last chance to impress and finally get to play in the affiliated minor leagues. He was confident that he would do well in front of the Blue Jays brass that day, but he still had to put it together on that day....no second chances."

"Several members of the family had made sacrifices for his baseball ambitions over the years, including his mother, step dad, and grand parents. We all sincerely believed that he had the talent to go all the way.

I'd also spent a considerable amount of money just keeping him afloat in his first 3 years of pro ball in Edmonton. $800 per month net pay for a 6 month season in Indy ball doesn't buy any luxuries, that's for sure...or even pay the bills for that matter."

"I'd come to the realization that if he didn't get into affiliated ball by the start of the 2008 season, then we were going to have to sit down and have a serious chat about the hard reality of his baseball dreams.

Unbeknownst to me, at the time, Scott had already come to the same conclusion that he was going to hang up his cleats if his only option was to go back to the Independent Leagues in 2008."

"Fortunately, we never had to have that chat."
In 2008, that persistence paid off as Scott became part of the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system. His dedication towards honing his craft helped him quickly progress through Double A and Triple A. As a 29 year old rookie, Scott Richmond has already had many career highlights ranging from representing Team Canada, to being named American League Rookie of the Month. But Scott’s father said his proudest moment as a dad was when Scott received his call to the show, for his first major league start on July 30th, 2008.
"People say “you must be really proud of him” and I am, but I’m more happy for him having overcome everything to get to the point where he is. Our family motto is “Resolve well and persevere” and his baseball journey is the personification of that that in every way. His whole career, you look back on it and it’s almost like it was meant to be."
Every young man looks up to their father for advice and support, and with Scott Richmond it’s no different. His father Dr Bob, is very supportive, even from all the way out in New Brunswick.
"Firstly I'm not a baseball expert, having never played the game, so I don't have the credentials to coach him in the sport per se. Besides the professional expertise that I am able to contribute as a chiropractor and an expert in body mechanics, we have a special connection on an emotional level, because he's very like me in many ways, so I understand what makes him tick him better than most.

In boxing terms, I like to think of myself more as his corner man. I’m the guy who puts the vaseline on his eyebrows, fixes his cuts and puts his mouthguard in so to speak.

I sent him inspirational things to read before each start that he has; to remind him that he’s a bonafide major leaguer, to show his confidence, to trust his stuff, to never doubt his ability, and to visualize the outcome that he wants to achieve every game."
Everyone is very impressed with Scott Richmond’s progression so far in 2009. With the rookies currently outnumbering the veterans on the Blue Jays starting rotation, Dr. Bob hopes that his son can remain as a starting pitcher for the remainder of the season.
"There are no guarantees for anything, definitely his goal is to stay there in the starting rotation all year and that’s where I picture him."
I joked with Dr. Bob that his son’s long and winding road to the majors has so many twists and turns that it could almost be made into a Sunday night TV movie.

I think a great title for it would be based the Richmond family motto that Scott embodies perfectly - “Resolve Well and Persevere: the Scott Richmond Story”.

19 comments:

  1. Well written. I hope Scott can keep this up and pitch professionally for years. He's just one part of what is turning into a nice story with this team.

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  2. Thanks Chris! Richmond has worked really hard to get to where he is today, and I hope he can stick around for many years to come.

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  3. Incredible journalism befitting of an award of some sort... Not sure what that award is, but Im sure the Drunks will come up with something.

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  4. Great piece. I'm even more impressed that Bob is a Kiwi. Nice people.

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  5. Thanks gents, much appreciated. I was surprised to learn that Scott's dad is a New Zealander too. He couldn't have been a nicer gentleman, class act all the way.

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  6. Ian, that was a phenomenal read. Very well written. As The Ack would say: "Nails."

    After reading that, only a douchebag could root against Scott Richmond.

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  7. great post! he'll bounce back from the Yanks start no doubt. btw, "douchebag" is quickly becoming the most over used word on the 'net! time to find a new word!

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  8. Great read!

    Did the Olympic situation of last summer come up at all during your chat? From reading the above, I'd guess Scott wasn't too disappointed to be in the Show instead of Beijing.

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  9. Scott will come back, don't worry. He's pitching Monday against the White Sox, so we'll see what happens.

    infieldfly, we didn't really speak much about the Olympic situation. I'm sure Richmond would have loved to play for Team Canada at the olympics, but every young kid always dreams of playing in the big leagues - I think that dream was more important. Bob (Scott's dad) said his proudest moment was when Scott was called up to the big leagues, so I don't think they were too disappointed about missing out on the olympics.

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  10. Nice!

    I remember when someone mentioned that Scott Richmond was the first Kiwi citizen to play in the MLB, I thought it was an obvious misprint and they were thinking of Scott Campbell. Campbell would be the first native New Zealander to play.

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  11. You've got it LJ! Richmond was the first NZ citizen to play in the majors and Campbell will probably be the first NZ native to play (once he gets called up).

    What are the odds that two Kiwis are in the Blue Jays system?

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  12. Late to the party on the kudos, but yes - nails dude.

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  13. Amazing article. Its been a while since I've read something good that is this indepth

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  14. Great article. Really enjoyed it.

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  15. I appreciate the comments everyone, glad you all enjoyed the article. It was great to shed some light on Scott's story to the majors.

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  16. Beautiful...it actually brought me to tears reading this.... Good Work =)

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  17. Thanks Leslie! It's a story that definitely deserves to be told and it was a pleasure writing it and getting to speak to Scott Richmond's father.

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