Eugene Emeralds CF Ronnie Richardson is Just Glad to be Playing
The life of a professional baseball player comes pretty easy for Ronnie Richardson. The second-year Eugene Emeralds center fielder, despite standing at 5-foot-maybe-6, commands the respect of a seasoned veteran.
“Some guys gotta wake up at 7:00 and go work a job,” Richardson says. “I get to sleep in, do my daily routine and then come out and play baseball. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“No matter where I go personally, I’m just glad to be out on the field — glad to be playing baseball every day for my job.”
Richardson stands along the first base line during Eugene’s batting practice, collecting the balls that go toward far right. He stands unassuming behind first, and you wouldn’t know from looking that he leads the team in hitting.
But he won’t be the one to tell you that.
“I wouldn’t say I was ‘the guy’ because I didn’t do it by myself,” Richardson says. “The credit goes to the guys that got on base before me.”
Ronnie’s bat and his plate discipline speak for him on the field perfectly well. He has so many walks this year (24) that the second-closest Em has about a third as many (9). He leads the team on base percentage (.482) by .113 and on base plus slugging (.994) by .238.
On a team that struggled with hitting from the very first game to basically this last week, Richardson (.305) has been a point of consistency and is the one player not named Hunter Renfroe batting over.300 this season. Renfroe, in fact, completes a starting outfield that — along with home run leader Henry Charles — set a tone in big wins against Everett last week.
“(Renfroe) fits right in, he made himself at home,” Richardson says with a bright smile. “He got two or three knocks (on his debut Thursday), he’s a pretty good player.”
Ronnie added that, while the team had a lot of outfielders in the wings, “We all fit in pretty good and we all play together. We cover the gaps pretty well.”
In a pitcher’s park, like PK, the outfield becomes one of the most important features. If a team can hit deep and the outfield isn’t solid, a team can take advantage of it, even without knocking balls past the fences. But nothing much gets past Richardson, who stands a head shorter than his outfield partners.
Ronnie did this in college, too. From center field, he played on three winning seasons for the University of Central Florida Knights baseball team, twice going to regionals.
“I went to UCF for three years, and had a great time,” Richardson says. “(UCF coach Terry) Rooney did a great job recruiting there, and we actually turned that program around and they’re still building there. He’s a great guy, great coach, great recruiter.”
Ronnie thrives under pressure. That became clear to the people of Eugene when he got them a walkoff win in extras, but it’s been clear to coaches throughout his career.
“Ronnie Richardson is one of the best players in the country and is one of the most clutch players in college baseball,” Rooney told UCF Today after a key hit in regional play last June.
In fact, in a rivalry game with regional opponent Stetson, he called his shot in an extra-innings situation. He may not have chosen a direction like the Babe, but he told a teammate before walking out in the top of the 13th that he was going to hit a homer to end it.
The leadoff shot set the final score at 5-4 and the Knights laid down the Stetson Hatters in order in the home half. Richardson was even able to secure the last out on a flyout to center.
“I told my guys — my pitchers — before the inning, I said, ‘Hey, put up a zero, I’m hitting a home run this next at bat,’” he said. “It actually happened. He put up a zero, I hit a home run for the go ahead, and they went out and put up another zero and we beat ‘em.”
Playing in Florida, he got to play against some of the best teams in D1 baseball, and his Knights were up there with them.
In his first and only college save opportunity against Florida, he struck out Mike Zunino — future Seattle Mariners prospect and current M’s starting catcher — to secure the save, and UCF’s win. Down 3-2 to the Gators, the team surged in the ninth to take a 4-3 lead and Ronnie’s 1-2-3 ninth sealed it.
After the go ahead run, “Rooney looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you’re closing this game out,’” Richardson said. “I played with (Zunino) growing up, so it was kinda cool to be in that position.”
That 2011 Florida Gators team went on to lose in the championship game to South Carolina, but was widely regarded as one of the best teams in college that whole year.
The stories all start to run together for the two-year Emerald, who, if he had to pick a position before college, would simply say “competitor.” Though you wouldn’t see it from his height, Ronnie pitched primarily until college and says he was one of the harder throwing guys.
“I wasn’t a pitcher, I was just a guy that was going to go out there and compete,” he said. “If I got bases loaded, I was going to get that next guy out … that’s just the type of player I am.”
When it comes down to it for him, the easiest way to describe Ronnie is that he simply loves being able to play baseball for a living.
The soft-spoken little guy has a texture to his voice and sparks in his bat, as well that unspoken quality that makes a player a good leader in a place like Eugene.
Richardson studied health, hospitality and even a little coaching while at UCF and says the institution really took pride in the student-athlete title.
“Hopefully, I can coach one day in the (Padres) organization,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “maybe be a manager for the Emeralds one day, who knows?”