Richmond, Team Canada take gold
Blue Jays right-hander saves medal game at Pan Am Games
Maybe there's a no-hitter in Scott Richmond's future. Maybe a World Series ring, a Cy Young Award. For now, though, a Pan Am Games gold medal will do quite nicely, thank you.
Richmond, a right-hander who's been up and down in the Blue Jays' system the past four years, saved Team Canada's 2-1 victory over Team USA in its first-ever gold-medal game Oct. 25 in Mexico.
"I put it up there above everything else, including my Major League debut because of what it does for Canadians in baseball, what it does for more than just myself," the Vancouver, B.C., native said. "To put us on the baseball map is a lot more fulfilling."
Team USA had runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh inning when Richmond replaced starter Andrew Albers. He got Phillies prospect Tuffy Gosewisch to fly to right, preserving the lead, then struck out three of the final six batters.
"For me, personally, it had been a rough year [pitching in Triple-A except for one-third of an inning as an emergency Blue Jays reliever], so to be able to close out the last 2 1/3 innings, this was a great way to go out," Richmond said.
"You're on the mound and everybody's running at you. That doesn't happen very often to people. I know how much that means. That's why I put it up there at the top."
He pitched out of the bullpen, figuring most teams have young starters ready to make the jump from the Minors. He wants to improve as a reliever. He's not a kid anymore. He turned 32 in August.
After high school, Richmond worked full time for three years on the Vancouver docks for $25 an hour, then headed to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to play in a wooden-bat league while attending Douglas College in British Columbia.
Then came transfers to Missouri Valley College, Bossier Parish (La.) College and, finally, two years at Oklahoma State, getting a degree in economics. Ignored in the Major League draft, he pitched three years for the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the independent Northern League.
"I wasn't upset that I wasn't getting a shot," he said. "I wasn't throwing 95 miles an hour with a one-point-something ERA. I thought I was an above-average pitcher that worked hard, not a superstar that was overlooked."
In 2007, some former Olympians with the Cracker-Cats told Rob Ducey to check out their teammate. Ducey, a former Blue Jays outfielder-turned-scout, had played for Team Canada in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Richmond, named to the 2008 Canadian Olympic team, got a tryout with the Blue Jays, signed as a free agent and was invited to Spring Training. He started the season in the Minors, and on July 28 was called up, losing his place on the Olympic roster.
"Funny story," he said. "Two days later they did the 'introducing-Team-Canada-wish-them-good-luck-in-Beijing' thing in Toronto on the day I made my Major League debut, and the whole Olympic team saw it."
Richmond went 1-3 that year. He started hot in 2009, going 4-0 in his first five starts, then experienced a shoulder impingement. By July 4, he was 6-5 and on the disabled list. He finished 8-11, "and I spent three-quarters of 2010 on the DL, just rehabbing my shoulder." On July 25, 2011, the Blue Jays dropped him from their 40-man roster.
"It's a business," he said. "I've been spoiled rotten since I joined the Jays. They gave me a great opportunity. I signed in Double-A in '08 went to the Big Leagues by the end of the year. I hadn't been off the 40-man since this year.
"Some guys play their entire career and never get on the 40-man. I did it with four months in affiliated ball. To be off it, it's not fun, but I'm happy I was on it as long as I was and plan on being back on it again."
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.