It has been a whirlwind the last few weeks for Reidsville alum Nicholas Richmond, a junior right-handed pitcher for Pheiffer University.
After getting invited to the elite Cape Cod League earlier this summer to play for Wareham Gatemen, Richmond got the call many high school and college players always dream of. On the other end of the line was a scout from the Detroit Tigers with an offer to sign a pro contract.
Cape Cod has long become an elite scouting ground for Major League Baseball teams to seek out top college players, drawing some of the best prospects from around the country. That in-and-of-itself, was a huge step forward for Richmond who has dreamed of playing professional baseball since he was a kid.
His father, Chris, said Nick told his Reidsville Middle School coach Wayne Hamilton that he wanted to play pro ball as a seventh grader.
“Coach Hamilton asked him – do you know how many will go to play professional baseball, let alone even play in college? Nick said ‘I’m going to make it’ and he’s worked his behind off to get to where he is now,” the father said.
Just four days after his time in the Cape Cod League ended, he was on a plane to join the Gulf Coast League Tigers West team in Lakeland, Florida and now he’s going through the process of learning the rotation and how he will fit into it.
“It’s kind of all up in the air right now. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know where he might end up before this summer is over. The team he is on right now, the league runs until the end of August. There is a possibility that he will remain there and there is the possibility he will go somewhere else. We are not sure where he will end up. He’s just trying to get his foot in the door,” Chris Richmond said.
Improving and Making an Impact
As a Ram he closed out his senior year with a record of 5-1 as a starter and ended the 2016 season at Reidsville with a 2.18 ERA and 77 strike outs.
During his final season for the Rams, he helped lead his team to an impressive 23-5 record and claim a Mid-State 2A regular season championship, sweeping the rest of the league with a 10-0 finish.
Reidsville also won the Mid-State 2A Conference tournament title in 2016.
Even with that success, it was not an easy road for Richmond, making the transition from high school to college.
During his freshman year as a Falcon, Richmond worked with former Pheiffer coach Dusty Blake, who is now the pitching coach at Duke University. He developed a relationship with Blake and Richmond took in every bit of information that he gave him and internalized it. He showed such promise that Blake gave Richmond a rare opportunity his freshman year and he made the most of it. As a result of his hard work, Richmond was named a starter at Pheiffer during that first season.
“That was a big accomplishment for him. To step in there with guys three or four years older than him and that’s what drove him. That’s what has made him what he is now is that drive, that want to,” said his father.
A North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Second-Team selection, he closed out his junior season at Pheiffer with a perfect 7-0 record as a starter.
Richmond had a 1.82 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched while striking out 83 opposing batters during that stretch. He was an Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Tournament team selection and was also named as the ECAC Tournament MVP.
At 6-4 and 195 pounds, Richmond has the type of frame Major League teams look for on the mound, and with the way his numbers have steadily improved against stronger competition since high school, the Tigers are hoping for more of the same.
He’s certainly got the tools. His slider was rated by a MLB scout as a plus-plus pitch, which is an advanced pro rating. He also has a strong curve and a good fast ball, which was clocked in college by a scout at 94 mph according to Richmond’s father.
Nowadays, that is just above average at the MLB level, but any baseball aficionado will tell you, if you can locate a pitch with that kind of velocity, you can have a MLB career.
That is what Richmond is hoping for and his dad said he’s willing to put in the work to find a way.
“He is his own worst critic. I think his focus is putting on size and strength, but he will do whatever his coaches want him to do to improve,” the father said.