Riccardo Ingram, an outfielder on the London Tigers’ 1990 Eastern League championship-winning team, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 48 after a long battle with brain cancer.
Ingram played two of his 10 minor league seasons in London and socked a career-best 18 home runs with the Double-A club in 1991. The 6-foot, 205-pound outfielder also suited up for parts of two big league campaigns with the Detroit Tigers (1994) and Minnesota Twins (1995), before becoming a popular coach in the Twins organization for 17 seasons.
“No one would know who Denard Span is if it weren’t for the help of Riccardo Ingram,” Denard Span, now an outfielder with the Washington Nationals, tweeted on Wednesday. “One of the best men in baseball.”
Pat Neshek, who pitched eight years in the Twins organization, shared similar reflections of Ingram.
“Thoughts go out to Riccardo Ingram’s family,” tweeted Neshek. “We lost a great baseball man and an even better person.”
Born on September 10, 1966 in Douglas, Ga., Ingram became a two-sport star at Georgia Tech, leading the football team in tackles (79) in 1986 and the baseball team in batting average (.426) in 1987. His athletic prowess convinced the Detroit Tigers to select him in the fourth round of the 1987 MLB amateur draft.
The right-handed hitting outfielder would play parts of seven seasons in the Tigers’ chain before he was finally called up by the big league club in June 1994. He registered five hits in 23 at bats before being returned to the minors.
The following January he was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He’d enjoy his finest professional season with the Twins’ Triple-A Salt Lake City Buzz in 1995, batting .348 in 122 games. His performance earned him his second – and final – big league promotion that July, in which he recorded one hit in four games.
Ingram hung up his playing spikes after the 1996 season and joined the Twins as a coach and worked in different capacities in their minor league system for 17 seasons. In 2014, he served as a batting coach with the Twins’ Gulf Coast League Fort Myers Miracle.
On top of Span and Neshek, other players to pay tribute to Ingram on Twitter on Wednesday were Drew Butera, Jesse Crain, Brian Duensing and Trevor Plouffe. Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter spoke to David Dorsey of The News Press in Fort Myers about his experiences with Ingram during his formative years in the Twins organization.
“He was always smiling,” Hunter said of Ingram. “I was a younger guy, and I always looked up to him. He had so much talent, and he was so athletic. He had such a great presence. You can’t say anything bad about Riccardo Ingram.”
Ingram was initially diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009. At that time, doctors reportedly told him that he had just one year to live. But the optimistic Georgia native beat the first round of the disease and returned to coaching before the tumor returned last year.
“I definitely think there’s no more suffering for him,” Hunter told Dorsey. “He’s at home with the Father. I know the family is going through some things, but they understand that Riccardo, that when he was here on Earth, he had a great name. You never heard anything bad about him. He always helped everybody. He was a father to so many kids, and he helped so many guys become men, not only on the baseball field. I definitely think Riccardo Ingram is going to be missed.”
Ingram is survived by his wife, Allison, and two children, Kacey and Kristen, who live in Lilburn, Ga.