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Canada's Richmond takes road less traveled to WBC '17

Former Blue Jays righty thrilled for tournament after bouncing around globe
MLB.com @jonmorosi

In 1997, Scott Richmond graduated from Aldergrove Community Secondary School near Vancouver, British Columbia, and took a job working on the docks at the Port of Vancouver. For three years, he arrived in the early morning dark, left around 4 p.m. and played baseball when he could.

In 2008, after an odyssey through three American colleges and Canadian non-affiliated baseball, Richmond made his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays, his country's team. The right-hander began the following season in the Blue Jays' rotation and had a 3.69 ERA at the All-Star break. And even though his performance slipped in the second half, due in part to a sore arm, he earned a full year of big league pay.

In 1997, Scott Richmond graduated from Aldergrove Community Secondary School near Vancouver, British Columbia, and took a job working on the docks at the Port of Vancouver. For three years, he arrived in the early morning dark, left around 4 p.m. and played baseball when he could.

In 2008, after an odyssey through three American colleges and Canadian non-affiliated baseball, Richmond made his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays, his country's team. The right-hander began the following season in the Blue Jays' rotation and had a 3.69 ERA at the All-Star break. And even though his performance slipped in the second half, due in part to a sore arm, he earned a full year of big league pay.

In 2015, having barely pitched for the Triple-A Round Rock Express the previous summer, Richmond was at his new home in Gilbert, Ariz., looking for jobs in real estate. Instead, he returned to indy baseball -- this time, with the Wichita (Kan.) Wingnuts -- because the Pan American Games were in Toronto and Richmond wanted to end his career by pitching for his country.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

The plan worked. Well, partially. Richmond pitched in the Pan Ams. In fact, he helped Team Canada win gold on home soil. The part about retirement? He's still working on that.

This month, nearly 20 years after he went to work on the docks, Richmond is poised to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for the first time.

"It's emotional to talk about it," Richmond said. "You don't quite realize what you've done while you're still doing it. In baseball, you have to focus on the now.

"It has been fun. I've been really fortunate. Maybe in the offseason, I'll sit back and reflect on it. Right now, it's just been so busy."

Busy -- in the transoceanic sense. Richmond, 37, won't go home to Arizona when the Classic is over. He's flying across the Pacific to rejoin his club team, the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, for the regular season.

That's right: Richmond, who last appeared in the Majors on July 1, 2012, pitched well enough during his unintentional 2015 season -- which included the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier 12 in Taiwan -- that he drew the attention of international scouts.

Video: Notable players from Team Canada, Team Colombia

The Guardians are based in New Taipei City, Taiwan, where Richmond will live with his wife, Deanna, and their three daughters: Hailey and Sierra, who are 4-year-old twins; and Juliet, who turns 2 later this month.

In fact, the Richmonds are beginning their second season in New Taipei City. Scott pitched there last year, too, when the team -- known as the EDA Rhinos, prior to an ownership and name change -- won the four-team CPBL.

"It's great," Richmond said from Taiwan, before one of the Guardians' spring workouts. "Public transit makes it really easy to get around with the subway system. There's a bullet train that takes you top to bottom [on the island] in 90 minutes, so my family can come on the road if they want to.

"Night markets are a big thing here, and that's a really fun event for families. If you're walking around with twin North American girls, they're going to have attention drawn to them. My kids are a little shy, but they're getting better about it. They love getting the tea that's popular with kids here. There's always something new to do, a different life experience.

"It's really the perfect time to do this, since they're not quite in school yet. And my wife's a big traveler, so she's loved living in Asia."

Plus, there are the added educational benefits. Hailey and Sierra can count to 10 in Mandarin, and the entire family has learned a term they hear, perpetually and endearingly, from elderly passersby: Shuangbaotai, which means twins.

Richmond's peripatetic career has yet to include an appearance in baseball's pre-eminent international event. He was pitching for the non-affiliated Edmonton Cracker-Cats and unknown to many Canadian baseball officials in 2006, when the first World Baseball Classic occurred. Richmond was on the roster and ready to start against Venezuela in 2009, until Italy eliminated Canada with a stunning upset. And he suffered a freak knee injury during a fielding drill with the Korean Baseball Organization's Lotte Giants prior to the 2013 Classic, leading to his release and an ongoing lawsuit over unpaid salary.

Now Richmond is a candidate to start for the underdog Canadians in a perilous Pool C that includes Colombia, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

"Over the last 10 years, we've won gold medals with our senior men's team [at the last two Pan Am Games], but we've never moved on in the WBC," Richmond said. "We always pull tough pools. But the one thing we like to do is carve a path for Canadian baseball players who aren't superstars. I'm not a guy who was highly recruited. No one even knew my name. And I was able to make it to the big leagues.

"Baseball is still getting better in Canada. It's not always easy for us to get on good travel teams and improve by playing against the top competition. But we all play together a lot. Team USA will have 20 new guys at every WBC. With us, it's the same old indy ball guys with the new young studs.

"We're listening to The Tragically Hip on the bus and signing 'O Canada.' We're teaching the young guys the way we do things. Hopefully when we're out of the game, these kids will be ready to take over and we'll keep climbing the international ladder."

Richmond's personal ascent is worth emulating, as well -- two decades after those 6 a.m. arrivals to the Port of Vancouver.

"I don't think I've even said those words before: 'Twenty years since high school,'" Richmond said, a little disbelief in his voice. "I've been really fortunate to be able to play this long. It's been a big dream of mine to have my kids watch me play and have an appreciation of my lifetime passion.

"They came onto the field after we won the [CPBL] championship last year and sprayed waters and soda with everyone. They're terrified of mascots, so they had their heads on a swivel the whole time. But now they know where dad stands on the baseball field, and that's really important to me."

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays