August 11, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Scott Rolen started at third base in Vancouver native Scott Richmond’s first eight starts for the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2009 season.
In his ninth start, Jose Bautista manned the hot corner.
So, Richmond, who went 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA that April, had some elite company playing behind him on the left side of the infield.
Rolen was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 23, and Bautista will have his name added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence in a pre-game ceremony at Rogers Centre on Saturday.
“When I was first with the Blue Jays, Bautista was a bench player,” recalled Richmond in a phone interview on Thursday. “But we would see him in BP all the time and he was always impressive. And he had a cannon from third base.”
Richmond, who went undrafted and had to claw his way to the major leagues through independent ball, was 29 in 2009 and at that time, he had a lot in common with Bautista. The then 28-year-old slugger had suited up for four major league teams but was still trying to secure a full-time big league job. And Bautista was still struggling. He hit just .235 with 13 home runs in 113 games in 2009, before breaking out with 54 home runs the following season.
“It was just a pleasure to be playing with him because it didn’t come easy for him. He had to work really hard for it,” said Richmond. “It’s nice when you’re a rookie and you’re working really, really hard to get your opportunity and this guy who has been there five years at that point is finally getting this steady opportunity and starting to take advantage of it.”
Richmond says Bautista was always nice to him and that he viewed the slugger’s intensity on the field as an asset.
“He obviously wore his emotions on his sleeve,” said Richmond, who played parts of four seasons with Bautista. “But you always knew he cared . . . You always knew that he cared about helping the team win.”
Rolen “amazing” in field
Rolen had the same kind of intensity. But in contrast to Bautista, he was already a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman when he arrived in Toronto.
“It was amazing to have him in the field behind me,” said Richmond of Rolen. “I was a guy who was trying to pitch to contact. I would get a few strikeouts here and there, but I was a rookie [in 2009]. I was trying to fill it up. I was trying not to walk anybody. And knowing that he was on the left side of the infield, and [Marco] Scutaro was there as well, I wanted them to hit the ball to them.”
Rolen manned the hot corner in 16 of Richmond’s first 20 big league starts. The Canuck righty can vividly recall a couple of outstanding plays Rolen made behind him.
One came on May 18, 2009 when Richmond tossed seven scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox in a Blue Jays’ 3-2 win at Rogers Centre. With one out in the third inning, Sox third baseman Josh Fields grounded a ball down the third base line.
“He smashed the ball down the line and Rolen goes to the line and fielded it and then from his knees threw a BB all the way across the field and got him out at first base,” recalled Richmond.
The right-hander also remembers Rolen showcasing his arm in a game on June 17 of that same year. In that contest, against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Richmond allowed just one run in eight innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in the Blue Jays’ 7-1 win. But in the bottom of the second, the Phillies were threatening with one out and runners on first and second when Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer bunted.
“Jamie Moyer two-hop bunted it perfectly to my right on the third base side. I got off the mound quickly and I spun and threw it to Scott at third base. He touched third base and threw a BB over to first to Aaron Hill and we got a double play and got out of the inning,” said Richmond.
Richmond says Rolen was a “quiet leader.” He can recall asking the sure handed third baseman questions about National League hitters prior to interleague games.
“He treated me really well. We both had the same first name. So, in the clubhouse, he’d go, ‘Morning, Scott.’ and I’d say, ‘Hello, Scott,’” said Richmond. “He always acknowledged me and smiled and made eye contact which meant a lot to me.
“I have nothing but great things to say about him. I was super happy that he was honoured for his career. And he’s obviously the best third baseman that ever played behind me.”
Richmond working in software sales
Richmond has come to appreciate his time on the field with superstars like Rolen and Bautista more in retirement. He threw his final professional pitch in 2019 and has settled in Gilbert, Ariz., with his wife, Deanna, and three young daughters.
These days, he sells inventory optimization software for a company called Netstock in North and South America.
He also coaches his daughters’ baseball teams and at the all-girls Peaches Baseball Academy in the area.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s rewarding. We’re just trying to give the girls as much baseball as we can,” said Richmond.
In the future, Richmond, who played 15 professional seasons in five different countries, might consider coaching professionally or for the national team.
“The issue is to start coaching I’d have to get started at the grassroots level and I would be away from my family seven, eight, nine months a year,” said Richmond. “And I don’t think it outweighs the benefits of being home, seeing my kids off to school, seeing them when they get home, coaching their teams. I think I’d really miss out on the younger years of their life right now.”