When center fielder Antoan Richardson arrived at Vanderbilt last fall as a junior college transfer, he instantly became the fastest player on the team, and likely the fastest in the SEC. After only four games, the lightning-quick Bahamas native is atop the conference in steals. How fast is he? Richardson talked with VandyMania about his speed, his mentality on the basepaths, and his love of reggae music. The baseball team plays three games this weekend in the Music City Classic. Tickets are just $1.00 for all games in February.
VandyMania: Antoan, I know this much about you... you were born in the Bahamas, you went to junior college at Palm Beach (Fla.), and you played at Winchester (Va.) over the summer. But tell us the story... how exactly did you wind up as a Commodore?
Antoan Richardson: It was my sophomore season at Palm Beach Community College, and I got a call from Coach Corbin saying they were interested in me. Coach [Eric] Bakich came down to visit with me. He liked the way I played and asked me to come on a recruiting visit, and I did. And I fell in love with Vanderbilt on that trip.
VandyMania: You've started off this season with quite a bang. Coach Corbin said you were one of the fastest players he had ever seen. Did you run track in high school? Exactly how fast are you?
Antoan Richardson: I did run a little track in high school, but that's about it. I used to run the 100 meters, and my personal best was around 10.6. I also ran the 200 meters, and my personal best was about 22.2. I specialized in those two events.
VandyMania: Have you ever been timed in the 40-yard dash?
Antoan Richardson: My best 40-yard dash was about 4.2.
VandyMania: Wow! Was that 4.2 flat, or 4.2 and a fraction?
Antoan Richardson: 4.2 plus a fraction. But I never really ran it in high school, so I couldn't tell you exactly.
VandyMania: You've obviously got explosive speed going from base to base, and I'm sure that's your specialty. Talk about your mentality when you get on base. Is stealing the next base always in the back of your mind?
Antoan Richardson: Yes, it's always in the back of my mind. What they want me to do is create a little havoc for the pitcher.
VandyMania: Coach says you've improved a lot in your hitting and your bunting to help you get on base more often.
Antoan Richardson: Well, it's kind of a work in progress. When I first got here, and even before that, I had a lot of things to learn. In fact, every day I learn something new from Coach Corbin and Coach Bakich. I'm getting where I need to be. Right now I just try to make progress each day.
VandyMania: What are you studying in school?
Antoan Richardson: Right now I'm studying Civil Engineering. Managing your time when you're playing baseball is pretty difficult though. But the adjustment has gone well though. With the help of several of the baseball players that are in Civil Engineering, it's been a pretty easy adjustment.
VandyMania: You were born in the Bahamas. What's the story behind your coming to the United States?
Antoan Richardson: I came to America at the age of 14 to attend high school. One of my friends was going to high school in Florida. He called my parents and said it would be a great opportunity, to go to school-- it was a new school-- and play baseball. My parents looked into it and thought it would be the best thing for me at the time. Even though I really didn't want to leave-- I had to leave a lot of friends. But I feel like it was a good decision. I lived with my aunt in Delray Beach, Fla. Later two of my good friends joined me.
VandyMania: Your bio says you like reggae music... is that correct? Tell me some of your favorite musicians. Whose CD's are you listening to these days?
Antoan Richardson: I listen to Bob Marley-- he's my favorite reggae guy, but mostly I like some groups from the Bahamas. Lately though, I've been starting to listen to some country music, with living in Nashville and all that. I'm enjoying it!
VandyMania: Your favorite things to do when you're not studying or playing baseball?
Antoan Richardson: Just hanging out with the guys, just hanging out and talking to them. And sometimes going to sporting events and supporting the other teams.
VandyMania: I have to ask you about stealing home the other day against Lipscomb. That's got to be the most demoralizing thing you can do to another team, but it's also one of the hardest things to do in baseball.
Antoan Richardson: Coach Corbin noticed the pitcher was pitching from the windup, so he gave the sign to Mike Baxter that I was going to steal. I got a decent lead, and just put my head down and ran as fast as I could.
VandyMania: This is your first year to work under Coach Corbin. What are your impressions of him?
Antoan Richardson: He's a hard-nosed coach. He lets you know when you did good, and he lets you know when you didn't do so good. He's always honest with his players. I'd say he has to be one of the better coaches I've ever played for, if not the best.
Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt athletics.