September 09, 2014
Antoan Richardson, the sixth Bahamian to play in the major leagues, is enjoying his time with the storied New York Yankees - the most valuable sports franchise in America and one of the more notable sports teams worldwide.
Richardson has appeared in just two games for the Yankees thus far, and has a stolen base to his credit, but the speedy Bahamian is hoping that he will be called upon to make a contribution as the regular season winds down. The Yankees, who open a three-game series at home against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, find themselves four and a half games out of a wildcard spot in the American League of Major League Baseball (MLB). They are chasing the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Marriners.
Richardson is just happy to be blessed with the opportunity to contribute and see action with another major league club. He played in nine games with the Atlanta Braves in 2011, finishing with two hits in four at-bats with two runs scored. He was credited with a stolen base that season, as well.
"I'm humbled by the opportunity," said Richardson yesterday. "Just to be playing with a franchise such as the Yankees with all of their history is just kind of surreal. When I step back and think of everything that they have done with this franchise, and now to be a part of that, it's a wonderful feeling. I'm just grateful for the opportunity."
Richardson saw his first action as a Yankee in a 5-4 walk-off win by them over the Boston Red Sox last Thursday. Richardson, 30, came into the game as a pinch runner for Zelous Wheeler, but was doubled off first on a line drive to center field by Ichiro Suzuki. The commentators criticized Richardson for running with his head down and being doubled off, but the Yankees who trailed 4-3 at the time, went on to win the game on a walk-off home-run by Chase Headley. The Yankees then showed that their confidence in Richardson had not wavered as they placed him in a similar position the following night.
"Any time you make an out on the field, you can learn from it. What I took away from it was that in certain situations you can take a peak to see where the ball is at when you are stealing a base. At the end of the day, we won the game, and when it comes down to it, it's all about winning and losing, and we prevailed that day," said Richardson. "The good thing is that my teammates and my manager have the confidence in me to put me in that position again. They are confident in my ability to execute a similar play."
The following night Richardson entered the game in the bottom of the ninth with the Yankees trailing 1-0 to the Central Division leading Kansas City Royals. Richardson came into the game as a pinch runner for Derek Jeter, and gave his team an opportunity to tie the game as he stole second base of Royals' reliever Wade Davis. However, Richardson was stranded at second as Brett Gardner struck out on a foul tip and Carlos Beltran was called out on strikes to end the game. The Yankees lost the game, 1-0, but Richardson gave them a chance with his clutch steal to get into scoring position.
"To me there really isn't much of a difference from doing it (stealing a base) here than at the minor league level because speed is speed, but when you do it at the highest level, there is some sort of gratification that comes with that," said Richardson. "Here, it's like you're competing against the best, so to have a positive play at this level speaks volumes."
This past Sunday was branded as "Derek Jeter Day" at Yankee Stadium, and Richardson said that it was a privilege to be a part of that. A number of legends showed up for the historic occasion, including the great one himself, Michael Jordan - arguably the greatest basketball player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. As for Jeter, he'll go down as one of the greatest Yankees ever. He's spent 20 years in the big leagues as the Yankees' starting shortstop, is sixth all-time in career hits and is arguably the greatest MLB postseason performer of all-time.
"When I look at what Derek Jeter did through the course of his career, to say that I had a chance to play with him is really special," said Richardson. "He's one of the greatest ever. The fans have the greatest respect for him and to see them embrace him like that, and to have all of those legends there as well, it says a lot about how special he was to this game. Even today, he's still playing and still going strong. I have the greatest respect for him.
"Guys like him and the other veterans on this team have made the transition so easy for me. They have made me feel like a part of the team. To have guys who have been in the league for so long come up to you and treat you like you belong, it says a lot about the character that these guys have. That's why they are a part of such a great organization that has really been a winning organization for so many years."
Richardson and the Yankees have about 20 games left in the season. In all likelihood, they would have to win about 15 of those games to have a shot at the final wildcard spot in the American League. The Yankees have missed the playoffs just twice in the past 20 years and have won 13 division titles, seven pennants and five World Series titles over that span.
"At the end of the day, we're going to have to win some games," said Richardson. "We can't focus on what the teams ahead of us are doing. We just have to go out there and win some games. We play some games against some of the teams that are in front of us, so if we could win a couple in a row, that could give us some momentum going forward. It's going to be difficult, but we definitely have the personnel to do it, and hopefully I could be a part of it. We have a chance to get in, and I hope that we get there," he added.
It certainly won't be easy as the Yankees still have eight games remaining against the American League leading Baltimore Orioles. They end the season with three games at Fenway Park in Boston against their nemesis, the Red Sox.
Either way, it will certainly be an exciting ride for Richardson the rest of the way. Earlier this season, he appeared in 93 games for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Richardson batted .271 with 41 runs scored and 22 RBIs. He had 26 stolen bases and had an on-base percentage of .380.
He was a part of the September call-up of the New York Yankees. The Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF) has sent out a congratulatory note to Richardson, saying that his perseverance, determination and drive are all qualities and virtues that aspiring young baseball players can emulate.
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