The third time’s the charm.
It holds true, at least, for former UCF center fielder Ronnie Richardson, who, on his third time around in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, has finally signed a professional contract and started the next step of his career.
Earlier this month, the San Diego Padres called Richardson’s name in the 16th round of the MLB Draft. Unlike the previous times he’d been drafted, with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 and with the Chicago Cubs a year ago, this time Richardson decided to sign on the dotted line and go pro.
Richardson now finds himself on the opposite side of the country in Oregon, playing for the Eugene Emeralds. The Emeralds are a short-season Single A minor league club in the Northwestern League, the former Knight’s first stop on the professional ladder.
The Future caught up with Richardson to talk about his transition, getting hit by a pitch in his first game as a professional and more.
Central Florida Future: Were you surprised at all when the Padres called your name?
Ronnie Richardson: No. … I wasn’t surprised because they told me they were going to pick me up no matter what, and they would have taken me earlier, but it was a money deal.
CFF: How long did it take you to make the decision to sign with the Padres?
RR: I was going to sign after my junior year no matter what.
CFF: You recently were assigned to the Emeralds. How’s that experience been so far?
RR: It’s been awesome. It’s a great place to start off your pro career. We have one of the best fields in the league, great support from the community and we live out of one of the nicer hotels, which not every minor league can do.
CFF: What’s it like having former Knights pitcher Roman Madrid as a teammate again?
RR: Yeah, it’s cool. Me and Roman [were] cool at UCF. [He] was one of my favorite teammates because he shows true passion about the game and really wanted to win and every time he was out there he competed. [Madrid] actually just met up with the team yesterday, and he is now my roommate. Having someone that I know [for a] roommate is awesome because we were already friends.
CFF: Are you still an outfielder or have you looked at a possible position change?
RR: For now, until the rehab guys go, I’m in center field, but then I’m going to be a utility guy moving into second base and filling in [at] different positions.
CFF: Going into the pros, have you made any adjustments at the plate or on the field?
RR: At the plate, I try to be more discipline and stick to my approach. I know here they will throw more fastballs so I try to hit those and not get beat on the fastballs. … In the field, I try to catch every ball that stays up in the air. … I like to say I’m on an island out there, and I don’t like visitors coming in the no-fly zone. In the infield, I just try to make the play — whatever it takes.
CFF: At UCF you broke a record for most hit by pitches. You started off your pro career by being hit by a pitch – what’s it like being a ball magnet?
RR: That means I’m doing my job. As a leadoff batter … that’s getting on base. That HBP actually won the first game for us because it was the bottom of the ninth, and [I] got hit, then sac bunted over and then they drove me in to win the game.
CFF: As a new player in a professional organization, what do you feel are your biggest strengths?
RR: The type of player I am, doing whatever it takes to get on base for the guys behind me [and] the energy I bring to the team. [I] live for the game and [have the] ability to be a spark plug and a leader on the field.