PCL baseball: Bees beat Colorado Springs 6-2; interim manager enjoys ride
His winning percentages where he's coached mark Bill Richardson as a consummate professional. But then again, he still gets a bit of a thrill standing on the top step of a Triple-A dugout.
In his second stretch as the Salt Lake Bees' interim manager Keith Johnson is attending his daughter's graduation in California Richardson is still just as excited to be at the helm. It's further in baseball than he ever could've gotten as a player.
"To be honest, it's a dream for me to be around professional baseball, period," the 53-year-old said. "It's fun to watch these guys' skill level and the way they go about their business."
Richardson worked his way into pro baseball the hard way: coaching more than two decades in high school, then cutting his teeth in Arizona rookie league where the temperatures soar into the triple digits. He comes to Utah by way of the Hickory, N.C., coaching Texas Rangers' Single-A affiliate Crawdads in a bit of a hike from his Sacramento roots.
Maybe it's just coincidence that the Bees are 3-0 since he's been managing, after a 6-2 win on Monday night highlighted by a strong pitching performance from Jarrett Grube and the bullpen. But the L.A. Angels organization hopes Richardson can win ballgames and develop prospects into professionals when he takes the reins for the Orem Owlz later this month.
Richardson joked after the game that he "picked the right time" to coach the Bees because the assistants and players have their affairs so firmly in order. But coaching in the Pioneer League will be his show, and he's not intimidated by stepping in for Tom Kotchman, who developed the Owlz into a perennial powerhouse.
"The only thing I'm disappointed about is that I never got to meet the man because I've heard a lot of good things about him," Richardson said. "I'm not competing against him. I've done some good things in Hickory."
Indeed, Richardson was 228-187 in his seasons with the Crawdads, which also included a cameo in a commercial for ESPN. He started looking west for work to be closer to home.
The furthest Richardson ever got in baseball was junior college, and he describes himself as a player with "no pop and square wheels." He taught, then he ran a store called Athletics Unlimited for 20 years to supplement his high school coaching pursuits until a scout for the Rangers noticed him.
Everything up to this point, Richardson said, has been gravy. But he doesn't take it for granted, working hard to stay organized and on top of his game. Even though his control over the team as interim manager has been limited, the Bees' clubhouse has been impressed. And no one judges him for his playing career, or lack thereof.
"If you know baseball, you can coach baseball," pitching coach Eric Bennett said. "I think he can coach at any level. He has a good rapport with the players. I think the guys respect him and follow his lead pretty well."
Storylines Bees 6, Sky Sox 2
R Jarrett Grube earns the victory on the mound with 5 strikeouts.
• Roberto Lopez hits a two-run homer in the 4th inning
• John Hester and Tommy Field have multi-hit outings