Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Chris Richard, 2002 Fleer Flair #90
Truth be told, I don't have many memories of Chris' two and a half seasons in Baltimore. They coincided with my first few years of college, probably the span of time when I was least attentive to the Orioles. But I stirred up a hornet's nest in September of 2009 when I made an offhand mention on this blog that the one-time Bird had a reputation as arrogant back in those days. I had no first-hand knowledge, I was just repeating what had been reported in the past by writers on the O's beat. No less than four people left comments on this post to disabuse me of that notion. As I conceded in response to one comment, there are two sides to every story and it was possible that the local media members had rushed to judgment on Chris based on a regrettable comment here or a bad day there.
I didn't give Chris Richard much more thought until I read a thoughtful article from the Independent Weekly of Durham, NC. Writer Adam Sobsey paints a picture of a player and a man much more like the one that my readers seemed to know. He disappeared from the major leagues after a serious shoulder injury in 2003 (save for a late-season stint with the Rays in 2009), but converted full-time to first base and kept plugging along for six full seasons of bus rides and AAA stadiums. The last four of those seasons were spent with Tampa Bay's Durham Bulls affiliate, and he became the face of the team. That's not usually what a pro baseball player (especially one with big league experience) aspires to, but Chris thrilled Bulls fans with a franchise-record 84 home runs from 2007-2010. Off the field, he always had time for an autograph or public appearance, or a quote for a reporter. But he's 36, and the Rays went younger and didn't ask him back for 2011. He plans to chip in on some Durham radio broadcasts and is opening a baseball academy nearby for kids ages 8-18. It sounds like he's moving on with his life and looking to share his talents with the community that has adopted him. Best of luck, Chris.