This time last season, Antoan Richardson was tearing through the Atlanta Braves’ organization, batting a solid .283 average with 64 runs, 21 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases in 91 games with the Double-A Mississippi Braves.
The speedy switch hitter played in a total 93 games with Mississippi and the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves before making his Major League debut with Atlanta on September 4. In his first appearance, Richardson ripped a fifth inning single to right field off Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw–the National League’s Cy Young winner.
Richardson’s 2011 Major League stint lasted only nine days and included just four plate appearances for the Braves (2-for-4 with two runs scored). At season’s end, he was cut by the Atlanta organization and signed by the Baltimore Orioles to a minor league deal on December 16.
Richardson was drafted in the MLB June Amateur Draft four separate times, including twice by the Orioles, before he finally signed a deal with the San Francisco Giants following the 2005 draft.
Playing in a Major League farm system every year since the 2005 season, when he was just 21 years of age, Richardson has gained valuable experience. Now at the age of 28, Richardson appears to have settled down with Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate Bowie Baysox.
It took him a couple of months to get in his groove, but with the every day center fielder L.J. Hoes receiving the call-up to Triple-A Norfolk on June 1, Richardson received an opportunity and seized the chance at becoming the every day lead-off man.
“I just prepared for the season like usual,” Richardson said in the clubhouse after being asked about his transition from organization to organization. “They’re all professionals, so it wasn’t hard to mesh with the guys here.
“This organization is not afraid to push these guys and it’s nice to see them rise to the occasion,” he continued.
The speedy Bahamas-native has thrived in his 53 games this season, establishing himself as one of the Eastern League’s top lead-off hitters. Following Wednesday evening’s series-opening matchup with the Harrisburg Senators, Richardson is boasting a .290 batting average with 38 runs, 37 walks and a team-leading .424 on-base percentage.
He doesn’t go yard very often (one HR) or hit a lot of runs in (eight RBIs), but he does what a lead-off hitter at any level is supposed to do: get on base and score runs.
His approach on game days didn’t change a bit once he took over for Hoes in center, either.
“I come in every day and prepare like I usually do, like I’m playing that day. I don’t even really look at the lineup right away.”
It’s no secret that the Baysox have had quite a bit of success as of recent, going on a seven-game win streak to end the month of June. Since Hoes’ call-up, the ‘Sox have put up a 20-11 record and have moved to just 7.5 games back in the Western Division.
“We have a lot of young talent,” says Richardson. “The young guys feel as though they can come to me with any questions they have, and sometimes I ask them questions too. We kind of lean on each other and I think that may have something to do with our success.”
Despite his sudden production and leadership within the team clubhouse Richardson made it clear that his focus stays the same heading toward the second half of the season, and that’s winning ball games.
“We listen to Call Me Maybe (a current popular song) in the clubhouse after every win. So we just want to be listening to that song a lot in the second half.”
There you have it, ‘Sox fans. The secret to Bowie’s most recent success may have less to do with playing good baseball and more to do with the satisfying thought of jamming out to Carly Rae Jespen’s hit pop song with fellow teammates following a long, hard-fought victory.