Ronnie Richardson loves being known as an on-base guy.
The TinCaps outfielder is also embracing his association with the hit-by-pitch.
Richardson has been hit 11 times this season, tied for fifth in the Midwest League.
He’s no Johnny-come-lately to this party of pain. It’s been going on for a while.
Richardson took 15 pitches off his body last year and 16 in 2012, his first professional season.
I’m trying to make a career out of it, Richardson said. That helps my on-base percentage. As a leadoff type, getting on base shows a lot.
His sacrificial approach began at Central Florida, where Shane Brown, a senior on the team when Richardson was a freshman, passed it down.
Brown was hit 22 times in 2010 to finish his Knights career with 55.
I learned from Shane, Richardson said. I just watched him. That’s what it all comes down to.
Brown must have been one heck of a teacher because Richardson only needed three seasons at Central Florida to break Brown’s school record.
His final tally in the hit-by-pitch department was 65, of which 35 came in 2012.
Even when a ball going 97 mph collides with his elbow or thigh, even when it leaves a bump or a bruise, Richardson wants to jog to first base as soon as possible.
I don’t like to show that it hurt at all, he said. I’ve had a couple that stung more than others. Usually, they just sting for a minute and then I’m out of there.
TinCaps manager Michael Collins appreciates Richardson’s penchant for getting hit.
The way he handles the bat, his game is getting on base any way possible, Collins said. If that means working the count for a walk, if that means they come inside and hit him, hey, we’ll take it.
A hit batsman gets a reward toward his on-base percentage, and Richardson’s is well above .400 the past two seasons.
Anything over .400 is huge, because in five plate appearances, you’re on base at least twice, Collins said.
When the TinCaps faced Wisconsin recently, Richardson realized Timber Rattlers slugger Clint Coulter held the league lead with 18 HBPs.
It caught my eye because I hadn’t been hit in a while, Richardson said. That’s not normal for me.
Sure enough, he was drilled in the second game of that series, although Richardson said it was probably a coincidence because he rarely tries to lean into a pitch.
If it’s close enough I’m probably going to (avoid) it, unless the guy has something absolutely filthy like a curveball that I don’t want to see later in the at-bat or if there are two strikes, he said.
Collins said Richardson seemingly has no fear. Perhaps that is how Richardson deals with being plunked so often.
I don’t know if I would call it a skill, Collins said. There’s a time and a place for it.