Baseball: The Game That Keeps Bringing Scott Richmond Back
By Ian Hunter
The Blue Jay Hunter
It’s hard to turn your back on the game. Just ask any athlete; they’ll tell you how difficult it is to give up on the sport which is all they’ve ever known.
From the time they’re children; eating, living and breathing the game, to an adolescent who’s suddenly realized their passion for the game can be parlayed into a professional career.
After all those years devoting everything to the game of baseball, one can’t ever envision hanging up their uniform for good.
Such was the case with Scott Richmond; the former Toronto Blue Jay and recent gold medal winner at the Pan Am Games. He’s practically seen it all; from independent League ball in Edmonton, to the bright lights of the Major Leagues, to the thrill of international competition.
As with any career, there are highs and lows. Richmond had a much-publicized low shortly after his signing in the Korean Baseball League with the Lotte Giants during the winter of 2012.
On the very first day of spring training with his new club, Richmond suffered an injury during a bunt drill and tore his meniscus; a similar injury to that of his fellow countryman and current Blue Jay, Michael Saunders.
The injury was merely the beginning of Richmond’s ordeal with the Lotte Giants; a team that has yet to pay him a single cent of the $700,000 dollars he is owed. His legal battle with the club has been a long and drawn-out process, and to this date, Richmond is still trying to retrieve at least a portion of the money.
It was a disappointing end to what Richmond initially planned to be how he would end his baseball career; with a few years under his belt in the KBO, eventually transitioning n into retirement.
But due to a freak injury, those plans were suddenly derailed.
“It was really frustrating because I would’ve liked to retire and play in Asia for a few years. That was the first injury where I’ve had surgery; it wasn’t even my arm, it was my knee. Initially it ruined my days because that’s all I would ever think about.”
These days, Richmond tries not to dwell too much on his time in Korea, as it was merely one bad break in his career; the only significant injury he’s ever suffered in all his years playing baseball. However, Richmond maintains a positive outlook and recognizes he’s been afforded a lot of good luck over the years.
“I’ve had a lot of good things go right for me, so I can’t complain or be mad or selfish. A lot of things had to go right for me to get on the Jays. And a lot of things had to go right for me to get onto Team Canada.”
An unfortunate experience like that would ordinarily be enough to turn someone off baseball entirely; but true to Richmond’s resilient nature, he used it as a learning experience and persevered.
He returned to North America, and in 2013 and 2014, Scott Richmond spent time with the Round Rock Express; the Triple A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
In every player’s career, the time must come to consider retirement. For Richmond, that time came in 2015. With a wife and three young daughters at home, he contemplated walking away from baseball.
“It’s just hard to be pulled out of the game when it’s all you’ve ever known. It’s a small window of your life when you get to play it. Why stop if you can continue to play and not totally break the bank or alienate yourself from your family?
If I were single, living on my own, I’d just keep chasing it. But I have a young family; I didn’t want to drag my family around, sign with another team, only to be the first guy cut. I didn’t know if I’d make it back to the big leagues again, and I thought; ‘Let’s move onto the next chapter in our life.’”
A little over one year ago, Richmond was considering retiring from baseball. As he learned shortly thereafter, fate works in mysterious ways.
It was a “right place, right time” scenario for Richmond as a last-minute call opened open yet another opportunity for him.
Richmond was reinvigorated after speaking to one of his mentors: Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams. Hamilton was adamant on having Richmond on the 2015 Pan Am Games roster, as Scott was not only a luckily talisman of sorts for the team, but Richmond played the part as mentor to the younger players.
“I was borderline retiring and then caught a hold of Greg and asked if there was room on the roster. I called the day before the rosters had to be in. He said ‘just keep throwing bullpens if you can’t find a job’. I said, ‘I’m going to find a job’ - so I called Nate Robertson, a guy I played with in the Rangers and Blue Jays organizations.”
Richmond worked in a few games with the Wingnuts before returning to his native Canada to suit up for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Canada took home gold in a thrilling championship game versus the United States. Richmond describes his experience as a member of Team Canada and how his entire career culminated in that fateful moment; with Pete Orr sliding safely into home plate and Canada capturing the gold on home soil.
“I was initially wondering how a silver medal would fit next to my gold medal framed jersey from 2011. But that right there is the reason why you play sports – for feelings like that.
You sacrifice everything; you sacrifice time away from family for opportunities to be put in situations to have that feeling in your life, because you don’t get it very often. In Canada on Canadian soil wearing out jersey – to do that in front of our fans, it was a great year for Canadian baseball.”
Following the Pan Ams, Richmond closed out the 2015 season playing Independent League baseball with Wichita, helping lead them into the American Association playoffs.
It wasn’t long before Richmond represented his country once again, joining Team Canada for the Premier 12 Tournament in Taiwan and Japan. Although Canada lost in heart-breaking fashion to Mexico in the quarterfinals, Premier 12 may have been another stepping stone towards Richmond’s continued future in baseball.
It seems like representing his country twice in one year has revitalized Richmond’s career and has him eager to experience the thrill of competition once again. With a few options at his disposal, Richmond is now contemplating which path to take in 2016.
“I’m actually looking for a job this year too, currently weighing my options. I have some interest in Taiwan, they possibly want me to play over there. I’ve also had a couple calls from Mexico as well.”
If the past is any indication, it won’t be long before Richmond finds himself back in baseball; the game that he’s practically given his entire life to, but also, the game that has given him so much.