B.J. Richmond Has Turned His Game Around

On Sunday afternoon, B. J. Richmond got all of a pitch and sent it flying out of the yard. It was his fifth home run for Ogden and as he went into his home run trot, he could feel a sense of satisfaction. Five is hardly a total that makes headlines but he's getting to become more like the hitter that people tell him he can be and that has to feel good.

B. J. -- given name Barry Jerome -- is a solid 6-3, 195 or just the right size to become a long ball threat. It's the potential that Dodger scout Lon Joyce saw when he saw him play for Spartanburg Methodist Junior College in South Carolina the spring of 2004. Richmond wasn't particularly high on a lot of scouting lists but Joyce liked that size and he liked that stroke. So, he recommended him to the Dodgers, saying he reminded him of Russell Mitchell, a player in a similar situation taken the previous year.

Mitchell had demonstrated that the faith Joyce had in him was well-placed so scouting director Logan White, who hadn't actually seen Richmond play, backed his scout's conviction as L.A. selected B.J. in the seventh round.

He was sent to Ogden last summer and maybe it was a bit too much. At least, the fences proved to be a bit too far. Time and again he remembers getting into a ball only to see it wind up up in an outfielder's glove just shy of the fence. He wound up the year hitting .267 with a single home run.

Obviously, he needed to get stronger so he devoted his off-season to doing just that. He trimmed his body fat, added some pounds of muscle and showed up this past spring bulked and ready to impress. That he did, sufficiently that he was promoted to Columbus. Great place to be, he thought. The South Atlantic League features good competition and what's more, he was playing almost in his backyard for his home is in Belmont, North Carolina, allowing his family to see him play often.

And everything seemed to go wrong. "I was trying to do too much," he says ruefully. "I wanted to hit a home run every time I was up and I was pressing. The harder I tried, the worse I got."

So it was with his average down to .186 and his home run total at zero, he was sent back, first to the extended spring camp, then to Ogden when the Pioneer League season opened in June. Here, inserted into the outfield, he loosened up, showed his natural stroke and stopped trying to drive every ball for distance but, rather, take what the pitchers were giving him and spraying hits around.

Those hits were falling in with regularity and, occasionally, going over the wall. He's been up or around .300 most of the season and has driven in some clutch runs.

In all, he's coming on just like Mitchell, who's his teammate at Ogden, one who's vying for the league's home run title after struggling in that department before and who just made the All-Star team. And the way B.J. is developing, he could well turn into such a player himself.