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FAITHFUL FAN | Marlins pitcher makes Illinois Catholic school proud

The right-handed pitcher allowed no hits against the St. Louis Cardinals in a March 17 spring training game as the Marlins won 4-2 at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

His name is familiar perhaps only to avid baseball fans, followers of the independent minor league Gateway Grizzlies team in Sauget, Ill., and some Southern Illinois residents. Trevor Richards is a graduate of Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese, Ill., and was a Cardinals fan growing up. In spring training this year so far, the 25-year-old is 2-1 with a 1.86 earned run average.

Last season, Richards started 25 games and was 4-9 with a 4.42 ERA. He struck out 130 in 126.1 innings. His spring training stats this year make it likely he’ll be one of five starters on the Marlins staff, according to Joe Frisaro of the MLB website. Frisaro noted that Richards is not overpowering, with a fastball that touches 92 mph, but he has a plus changeup and improving curveball and cut-fastball.

Richards, whose family attends St. Francis Parish in Aviston, Ill., has come a long way. Undrafted coming out of Drury University in Springfield, Mo., he toiled for the Grizzlies in the unaffiliated Frontier League in 2015 before signing with the Marlins in 2016.

Mater Dei principal Dennis Litteken said Richards is “a quality kid. We’re very proud to call him one of our own, not just because of his baseball success but because of the way he lives his life.”

When he comes home and visits, “I’m just so impressed with the way he handles himself, the way he goes about his work and business and his faith,” Litteken said.

Richards’ parents also attended Mater Dei. The school community is proud of his ability to set a goal and make it happen, Litteken said. Especially noteworthy is his perseverance against long odds, he added.

Mater Dei, a Catholic diocesan regional high school, is similar to Catholic schools in the St. Louis Archdiocese with a mission to nurture the spiritual, moral, intellectual, emotional and social growth of young men and women. It fosters faith and develops Gospel values.

The Catholic ballplayer debuted as a starting pitcher for the Marlins against the Washington Nationals March 19, 2018, in a spring training game. He won the game, giving up one run in four innings and outpitching Max Scherzer, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner.

Richards climbed his way the minors with the Miami club. In 2017 he posted a 12-11 record in 146 innings with a 2.53 ERA across A+ and AA levels. He was the Marlins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

“I am extremely excited for Trevor and the opportunity he has today, Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said when Richards got his first start with the Marlins. “This is a testament to all the work he has put in.”

Warren, a graduate of St. John Vianney High School in St. Louis where he played baseball and soccer, said he and his staff are happy and proud to be part of the influence that helped Richards reach the major leagues. “It’s really cool for all of us who had a hand in coaching him and see our work as coaches pay off,” Warren said.

The Grizzlies celebrated Richards’ success with a bobblehead giveaway last season.

While with the Grizzlies, Richards had a 6-6 season with an ERA of 3.36 in 91 innings pitched. At Drury University, he posted a 5-3 record with a 3.61 ERA in 11 starts in 2015. He recorded a team-high 72 strikeouts in 72.1 IP while only issuing 19 walks that year and had an outstanding career for the Panthers. He went 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA as a junior and 9-4 with a 2.43 ERA as a sophomore.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.

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