Grant Richardson, Indiana baseball’s standout freshman outfielder, says that he listens to “Till It Hurts” by Yellow Claw before every game to get in the zone.
It’s a fast, upbeat, EDM-style song. It couldn’t be anything less like him.
Richardson’s personality is quite the opposite. He is naturally quiet and calm, a man of few words. The freshman lets his play on the field do the talking and keeps a clear mind.
“Baseball is a completely mental game,” Richardson said. “And I mean being able to block out everything and just kind of go out and play is my key to being a successful player.”
His career is only nine games old, but Rich the Kid already has a greatest hits collection 📀 pic.twitter.com/swRrEzyCk5
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) March 25, 2019
The young player that all of the upperclassmen on the team call “kid” is making a name for himself. In just 14 games, Richardson has been nothing short of fantastic for the Hoosiers.
At the plate, he hits for a .379 batting average and has 23 RBIs to go along with 10 extra base hits, six of them being home runs. Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer has been more than impressed with the freshman.
“Terrific, he’s been terrific,” Mercer said. “He just does everything he is asked to do.”
What is most impressive about Richardson’s performance thus far is that he made his first career start on March 13, on the road at Cincinnati, practically a month into the season and 14 games through.
He fit in the lineup easily and didn’t miss a beat. In his first at-bat he earned an RBI to put the Hoosiers up 2-0 in the first inning.
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) April 1, 2019
“For Cincinnati I was nervous,” Richardson said. “But then after I got my first RBI I was settled then.”
Richardson’s dominance at the plate had always been there, but his defense is what prevented the freshman standout from getting on the field until the road Cincinnati match-up.
“It’s important to understand that Grant wasn’t ready to play at the beginning of the season because he wasn’t ready defensively,” Mercer said.
Richardson made it his mission to improve his fielding and earn the starting job. So, he modeled his game off of a mentor.
“I base myself off of Logan Kaletha,” Richardson said. “Every time I watch him during BP he would go as hard as he could and try not to let any balls land. That’s what I adapted to. Just go out and not let a single ball land.”
Kaletha, a senior outfielder and usual top of the lineup guy for the team, has been held out with injury since March 24 of the Iowa series which makes Richardson’s contributions all the more important to Indiana’s success.
That same game, Richardson had his best play of the season, a diving catch out in right field with two outs and two runners threatening on base.
What can’t he do?? The freshman out here making plays at the plate and in the outfield like it’s nothing 💨 pic.twitter.com/BP23MBVmhZ
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) March 24, 2019
“It was an incredible catch,” Mercer said. “He’s a different level of athlete.”
Richardson’s defensive improvement has been noticeable. He has only committed one error on the season and his fielding percentage stands at .969.
“Defensively, I’ve grown to be a completely different player in the outfield than I was before I came,” Richardson said.
With Richardson’s revamped defense and consistent offensive production, the Hoosiers are a much more improved team than they were in the first half of the season. Since Richardson has been inserted into the starting lineup the Hoosiers are 10-4 and they’ve outscored opponents 145 to 74.
Big games have become common for Richardson. In five of his 14 games played he’s had three or more RBIs. His best game to date came on March 30 at Maryland. Richardson went five for six from the plate to the tune of three home runs and six RBIs on the day.
All of those figures were career highs for the rising star. The three home runs in one game are the most ever by an Indiana freshman in school history. Richardson’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed, he’s been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week in the last two weeks. He recognizes his rise and the achievements earned, but that’s not his focus. The freshman is just looking to keep up the good work.
“It’s surprising, but then it’s not,” Richardson said. “I’ve put in a ton of work to get where I am now. I’m just trying to stay consistent in what I do.”