OMAHA, Neb. — There are T-shirts, tank tops and hoodies for sale that commemorate the biggest day in Tre Richardson’s career. The apparel features a cartoon image of Richardson, his fingers curled into the Horned Frogs’ hand sign, with the words “TRE DAY, June 4, 2023.”
Richardson doesn’t have a shirt yet, but he’s been assured it’s in the mail. It’s been two weeks since the TCU second baseman hit three home runs — including two grand slams — in a 20-5 regionals win at Arkansas, and Richardson doesn’t need any keepsakes to remind him of what he did.
He hears it from his teammates every time he comes to bat, and from the crowd, which chants his name.
“Honestly, I don’t think he’s sick of people talking about it,” TCU shortstop Anthony Silva said with a laugh. “He loves it. It was kind of surreal because I’d never seen that happen before, not even on TV.
“Even though we can tell he loves the attention, he’s a very humble guy. He hasn’t mentioned it since. Because everyone knows what he did in the whole state of Texas. I think maybe even the country, too.”
Richardson’s 11 RBIs tied a record for an NCAA tournament game, and he hit another home run the next day. He is 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, and had hit just two home runs during the season. He hasn’t homered since that day in Fayetteville.
TCU coach Kirk Saarloos said Monday that postseason baseball is known to inspire out-of-body experiences, but then Saarloos stopped himself. This whole season for the Horned Frogs has been an out-of-body experience.
They’d lost five in a row in late April and were hovering near .500 when Richardson called his dad, crying, wondering if it was him, because he couldn’t make it to the postseason when he was at Baylor, and now his new team was going nowhere.
Two months later, TCU is playing Oral Roberts on Tuesday in an elimination game in the Men’s College World Series (2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
Whether he’s flashing a Michael Jordan shrug after a grand slam or spiking the ball after tagging out a runner, Richardson is the spark plug for 43-23 TCU.
“He brings the energy,” Saarloos said.
But during that low point in April, Robert Richardson, who coaches baseball at Spartans Post Grad Academy in Houston, wondered if his son should dial it down a bit. Was all the energy he was trying to infuse into the team draining him?
Tre, according to Robert, quickly said no.
“He said, ‘I’m the type of person that no matter how it’s going, I’m going to lift the team up,'” Robert said.
When Richardson was a toddler, his parents and grandparents were always trying to catch him. He’d run up the aisle at church, and escape through doors into parking lots. He hit his first home run when he was 5, at the YMCA. He touched home plate, ran to the bench, then ran to his mom.
“The first ball he hit,” Robert said, “he ran for days.”
Richardson was not heavily recruited in high school because of his size, and committed to Baylor his junior year. He graduated a semester early to join his team for the 2020 season, which was cut short by COVID-19.
Richardson watched his first MCWS in 2014, when he was in junior high. TCU made it that year. He dreamed of playing in Omaha in June, and after 2½ years at Baylor, became resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen in Waco. He entered the transfer portal and found himself on a visit to the school he’d followed from afar.
It’s rare, Saarloos said, for Baylor players to transfer to TCU, or vice versa, because they’re Big 12 rivals separated by just 90 miles.
“I wouldn’t let him leave the office until he committed,” Saarloos said. “Thank goodness he did.”
Saarloos said he’s their vocal leader in the dugout and at practice. Richardson, who’s batting .312 with 16 doubles and 60 RBIs, makes a point to always have fun.
“We’re playing a kid’s game,” he said, “and for me it’s about just enjoying the journey and loving the process and going on the field and being able to show it in front of thousands of fans, and showing it for my team.”
Tre Day started with two pancakes and a slab of bacon from IHOP. TCU fans have been riveted by what Richardson is eating every game day since. Richardson joked that he hopes this leads to some NIL money.
He’s thought about how quickly things can change. A year ago, he was languishing in relative anonymity at Baylor. On Tuesday, sections of purple will hold their breath every time Richardson comes to the plate.
“Who would’ve thought a little kid from Houston who’s 5-10, 165 pounds, would go three opposite-field home runs in a regional?” he said.
“I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder of just proving people the opposite of what they might think.”