The first Kiwi citizen to ever play in Major League Baseball has linked up with the Auckland Tuatara.
Scott Richmond, who pitched in 36 games for the Toronto Blue Jays between 2008 and 2012, will debut for the Tuatara this weekend in Canberra, and will be with the team for the remainder of the Australian Baseball League season.
Despite hailing from Canada, Richmond does not count towards the team’s quota of imports as he holds a Kiwi passport, with his father being from New Zealand.
The 39-year-old had wanted to be involved with the team since it was announced earlier in the year. While he wasn’t able to join them from the start of the season, he told the Herald he was excited to contribute to their inaugural season and their bid for the playoffs.
“It didn’t work at the beginning of the season, but it’s going to work now,” Richmond said.
“I always wanted to play for the first professional team in New Zealand, I have ties to New Zealand and it’s pretty exciting to be down there.
“I’ve been getting ready because, ever since plans to join the team fell through early on, I was trying to play in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic but things weren’t quite working out so I kept throwing and kept getting ready and (Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn) checked back in.”
Currently in Arizona, Richmond will link up with the Tuatara in Canberra on Saturday afternoon, and will be the fourth starter for their series against the Canberra Cavalry this weekend.
He’ll be the third Kiwi slotted into the team’s four-man starting rotation, alongside Jimmy Boyce and Elliot Johnstone, with American and fellow former MLB star Josh Collmenter rounding out the group.
Richmond joins the team on the back of a strong campaign in Italy, where his Citta di Nettuno side reached the playoffs before being eliminated by eventual champions Bologna. He’ll toe the rubber for the Tuatara on Sunday in the final match of this weekend’s series.
“I’ll be flying 15 hours from Los Angeles, and I’ll arrive in Sydney, meet up with the team in Canberra on the Saturday, and then I’ll be pitching the next day, so we’ll see how the jet lag goes and how I feel, but I’m going to give it a valiant effort.
“It’s a first for me – pitching so close to getting off a plane after that much travelling, so we’ll see (how it goes).
Boyce will pitch Thursday night’s opener, with Johnstone pitching on Friday and Collmenter on the mound on Saturday.
The Auckland side have had a tough run of things in their debut season. They’ve dropped games they should have won, their bats have often fallen silent and they’ve had a high error count in the field, averaging more than one per game.
However, despite hold a mediocre 7-16 record, their hopes of securing a spot in the playoffs are still alive and well.
With four series’ left in the regular season, the Tuatara sit six wins outside of the wildcard spot, which Canberra currently possess.
This will be the second time this year the two sides have met, with the season series split at 2-2, and the Tuatara will be buoyed by the fact their best offensive performance of the season came against the Cavalry.
The Auckland side have also shown signs of life at the plate over their past two series’, with American imports Eric Jenkins and Taylor Snyder doing plenty of damage. Snyder, who missed the first three weeks of the season, has shown plenty of power to lead the team in home-runs.