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Bill Richardson: 

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

by Editor Rick Cabral

Sacramento has seen a number of major league baseball managers come through its ranks. Most notable is three-time National League Manager of the Year, Dusty Baker (Del Campo).

At one time several years ago, we could boast of five managers in the big leagues at the same time: Baker, Larry Bowa, Jerry Manuel, Buck Martinez and Jerry Royster. All played at the major league level and wound their way through the minor league coaching ranks until they earned the top spot in the dugout.

Bill Richardson has always dreamed of one day holding such a position. Heck, he’d be tickled pink just to coach from a major league dugout. He realizes the dream is a long shot, seeing how he started as a high school coach in Sacramento.

Richardson managed three high school programs, beginning with San Juan (1982-90), Del Campo (1996-2002) and most recently Bella Vista (2005-2008). He frequently took his squads to the Division I and II playoffs and produced some of the most funamentally sound players to come through the high school ranks.

It was at Bella Vista where RIchardson coached two future pro pitchers, Tyler and Charlie Robertson. Their father Jay Robertson, an assistant to the Texas Rangers' general manager, was impressed with Richardon’s coaching techniques and drills. The Rangers dispatched scouts to watch Bella Vista’s practices. The Texas Rangers were impressed and hired Richardson to manage their Arizona League short season team from 2008-2009, where he went 59-53.  

Richardson,Bill

Bill Richardson
(courtesy of Hickory Crawdads)

That earned Bill a promotion to manage the Hickory Crawdads in the South Atlantic League from 2010-2012, where he again led teams to the playoffs and had an overall mark of 228-187. At that level, player development holds the most importance, but clubs like to see their low level players achieve team success, and Richardson succeeded in both departments.

During this past off-season, Texas offered Richardson another tour at Hickory. But Bill was ready “for a new challenge.” Plus, North Carolina is three time zones removed from the West Coast, and he (and his wife Lindy, a local school teacher) wanted to relocate somewhere closer to home.

Richardson accepted “the best of four offers” and joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim minor league staff as manager of the Orem Owlz (Rookie Season, Pioneer League). The new position came with an added bonus: Richardson was invited to join the Angels spring training camp, and will serve as a roving instructor/replacement manager for the 10 weeks preceding Orem’s short season start in mid-June.

His first shot as a replacement started at the top with Salt Lake City (Pacific Coast League), when manager Keith Johnson took five days of bereavement leave. “We didn’t do so well (1-4),” Richardson chuckles. “Still, it was a great experience,” he said from his Sacramento home.

Next up are a couple of Midwest assignments to watch several low-level minor league prospects who are struggling. “They (the organization) want a different set of eyes (to watch the prospects). So, you go and troubleshoot a little bit,” Richardson says of his assignment. “Makes for interesting work.

“It’s the best of both worlds. I get to see affiliates in different parks. Then on June 15, get my own team (Orem) and push hard until September 10.” Lindy Richardson, as she has done in the past, will join her husband for parts of the summer in Utah, traveling with the club and seeing ballgames. She’s used to it, as she faithfully followed all of Bill’s high school teams (we can attest, as our son Alexander played two years for Bill at Del Campo).

Asked if the two clubs (Rangers and Angels) have marked differences or philosophies, Richardson notes that both organizations start with solid foundations which have produced high ratings for player development. They work off of “the individual,” Richardson says, so “they don’t try to ‘cookie-cut’ everybody (players).”

When prodded for an example of differences, he offers that Anaheim has a reputation for running the bases well, a compliment often attributed to manager, Mike Scioscia. In Anaheim, they refer to this part of the game as “special teams.”

In spring training, “if a guy flies out, he rounds the base correctly. I haven’t seen that every place I’ve gone,” Richardson says. “It’s ingrained in them to cut that corner quick. They don’t run toward right field. Everything they do is crispy, especially on the base paths.” He isn’t sure whether Scioscia originated this philosophy within the Angels organization, but “he will get after you if you don’t.”

During his five years managing minor league baseball, Richardson can attest that the daily routine truly is “a grind.” With all the travel, usually by bus, there’s precious little personal or “down time.”

“The concentration that it takes to do your job, especially on days when you don’t’ feel right, is very difficult,” he says of the challenge facing minor league players.

Richardson always started with disclipline and helped to instill a solid work ethic, which is critical to suceeding in the professional ranks, observes Pat Gomez (San Juan High 1986) from his real-world post as used car manager for Turner Volvo and owner of PMG Consultants specializing in automotive sales. Gomez played for and coached with Richardson before and after his pro career (which ended with the San Francisco Giants in 1995 following an ankle injury).

"Going  in (to pro ball), if you understand that this game is a privilege to play it, I think it changes the metric mentally. And I think that is something Bill is good at instilling in these kids.”

Richardson, 52, realizes he may not achieve his dream of “getting into a major league dugout.” Some air was released from that balloon when he spoke with Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates about the possibility of someday joining his staff.

Hurdle told him, “Bill, I have a hard enough time explaining how I’m running this team, let alone trying to explain why I’ve got a high school coach in the dugout.” Richardson laughs at this anecdote about  Hurdle.

In the meantime, Bill’s happy where he is at now: “Everyday, I’m seeking knowledge of baseball. See America on someone else’s dime. When it comes to playoff time, I’m right in the middle of them. So, it’s pretty good.”

Richardson says he’ll know when it’s time to quit pursuing the dream: “When the wife says it’s time to come home.”

 

Richardson,Bill
Bill Richardson, shown in his former Hickory hat in front of the logo of his new team, Orem Owlz

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Uploaded 4/28/13
Updated 04/30/13
All contents © Rick Cabral, 2013

 

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