05/16/09 12:49 AM ET
Richard hits two Triple-A grand slams
Walk-off blast gains share of International League record
By Mason Kelley / Special to MLB.com
There was the time he homered on the first big league pitch he saw with St. Louis on July 17, 2000. Just about 2 1/2 months later, while playing for Baltimore, he had a double, triple, two homers and six RBIs against Cleveland, falling a great catch short of the cycle.
After hitting a pair of grand slams, including a walk-off blast in the 11th inning of the Durham Bulls' 13-9 victory over the Louisville Bats, Richard has yet another memory he won't soon forget.
"The big leagues are a little bit different, but this is going to be right up there at the top," Richard said.
He became the fifth player in International League history to hit two grand slams in one game, joining Montreal's Dan Howley (1915), Jersey City's Tom Daly (1927), Newark's Joe Cicero (1944) and Buffalo's Mike Baxes (1957).
With the Bulls trailing by five runs in the eighth, Richard stepped to the plate looking for a good pitch to hit against left-hander Pedro Viola. He drove a fastball to right field that started the comeback.
"It was just the right situation," Richard said.
In the 11th, with another lefty on the mound, Richard tried to stick to the same approach. He knew a base hit would win the game, so he tried not to think about a second slam. Again, he found a pitch he could handle, driving the game-winning blast to center field.
"I was kind of surprised the ball carried out," he said. "I thought it was just going to be enough to get over the center fielder's head. It carried pretty well."
For the 34-year-old the experience was a thrill, a chance to help rally his team when then Bulls needed him most.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Richard said. "You're just excited. It's a lot of joy. It's just a great time."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder got off to a slow start this season, but he has slowly pulled up his average, hitting .283 with eight doubles, nine homers and 27 RBIs through 31 games.
"I'm in a good spot to do some things and put some numbers up," Richard said. "Hopefully, I can continue to swing the bat well."
Whenever he needs to work on his swing, he breaks out a machine called the Personal Pitcher to tweak his mechanics. When Richard was 14, his father, Bob, created the device, which uses remote control car wheels and computer parts and shoots plastic golf balls. He uses it five days a week during the offseason and at least once a week during the season.
However, he now uses a much more refined version of the Personal Pitcher.
With the help of his boyhood practice partner and some good timing, Richard accomplished a rare feat Friday, something that ranks among his most cherished achievements. But he sees no reason why it should stop there.
"Tomorrow is another day and you just have to continue to work hard and have fun," Richard said.
Mason Kelley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.