Courtesy of San Diego Padres
Q&A with Clayton Richard
February 14, 2018
A three-sport athlete and valedictorian. Clayton Richard was a busy man in high school, but he will tell you that work ethic is what has made him a successful Major League Baseball player for over a decade.
Last September, Clayton Richard signed an extension with the San Diego Padres assuring he will be with the team through the 2019 season. On top of being a durable, veteran pitcher in the rotation, his leadership abilities made him a perfect candidate to be a model for the young Padres team.
“I think he’s a guy that invests in other players, but the way he does it is by doing everything right for himself. His workout regimen is off the charts. The manner in which he prepares for games is off the charts. The way he relates in the clubhouse is off the charts,” Padres Manager Andy Green said. “He’s an example first, but he’s also a guy that will pull someone over and have a conversation in a non-threatening way. In a way that the player feels, ‘Hey, this guy is invested in me.’ He’s invested in success of this organization.”
General Manager AJ Preller described Richard’s extension as a “stabilizer.” Preller said, “He’s a guy that we know we can count on. From a leadership component, he plays a big role. He’s a guy that both position players and pitchers listen to. He’s a guy that was very impactful last year in our clubhouse. He is right alongside Andy (Green) preaching a certain mindset of competitiveness. He carries that around on a day-to-day basis. He’s prepared everyday. He works hard in the weightroom. He just brings a lot of positives.”
You signed an extension at the end of last season with the Padres. What made you want to stay in San Diego?
More than anything, I just love being around the guys in this clubhouse. From the top down, starting with (General Manager AJ) Preller, to (Manager Andy) Green, to (Pitching Coach) Darren Balsley, and everyone involved in this organization… It made it an easy choice for me to come back and be a part of this organization and this group of people.
In your first tenure with the Padres, you were traded to San Diego for Padres legend Jake Peavy. You had a great run in San Diego and then went elsewhere to continue to your career. Now that you’re back, how do you think your career has evolved?
It has progressed every year I’ve been in the big leagues. There have been setbacks, with some shoulder injuries when I was out here the first time. I feel as if I have learned something from everything that has happened and now we’re getting to the point where we’re going to push the envelope this year and see where it takes us.
You were a two-sport athlete at the University of Michigan, a quarterback for the football team and a pitcher on the baseball team. How do you think those experiences have impacted your Major League Baseball career?
It has helped me a lot off the field. Not necessarily baseball-wise, but as a man, understanding what’s important and how to grow as a person, going through tough times. I went up to Michigan and didn’t get a chance to play on the football field. Not getting that playing time taught me what it takes to have resolve and deal with adversity. More than anything, I take away learning how to get through adversity and I look at that situation, now, as a positive.
Over this offseason, you had Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi, two of the top pitching prospects for the Padres, stay with you for a week in your Indiana home. What prompted that? What were you trying to get across to them?
It actually started back in the contract negotiation stage. For me, family is so important that flying from Indiana to San Diego several times in the offseason was going to be very difficult, especially with the travel we already have during the season. But during the negotiations, I said that I would be happy to help the organization in any way possible. The Padres asked if I would host those two guys and I was happy to do it.
I tried to preach the work ethic that it takes to be successful in the big leagues. I just wanted to convey the idea that it takes a lot, that it takes a lot constantly, to play at the highest level and stay there. Hopefully, they got something out of it and enjoyed their time out there.
Talk to me about the big leagues. The travel, the grueling season. What’s it like from your perspective?
It’s definitely difficult, but it’s more mentally challenging than physically. There is not much of a break. You’re going from game to game every day. If you have a tough game or a tough start, you don’t have a lot of time to recover. That’s the hardest part for me. As for the travel, being away from family is very hard. I have three children and being away from them is getting harder every year that I play.
What’s the environment like in the clubhouse?
It’s generally really fun. It can be terrific or it can be just okay. With the group of guys we have in San Diego, it’s a terrific clubhouse. We enjoy ourselves and have a lot of fun, but when it comes down and it’s time to work, we know how to shift gears.
The Padres have a young, talented rotation in the near future, including the two guys you spent time with this winter. What is your role in the rotation going forward?
I don’t look too much into what role I hold, as opposed to how well I can help the team out when I get the ball every five days. That’s all I can control. When I have the ball, what can I do to help the team? So I try to stay focused on that.
What are you most excited about for the 2018 season?
Playing. I know that’s silly, but I still love this game. I still love playing. Everyday, getting a chance to play and compete together is the best part of the job. We’re going to take a positive mindset to the field each and every day and we’ll come out ahead more than people think.
Who are your favorite players to watch in the big leagues? Who do you try to model your game after now?
Growing up, I loved watching Ken Griffey Jr. He had the video game, the best video game ever. He had the shoes and wore his hat backwards. I just loved watching him. I try to watch a little bit of everybody. There is so much to learn from in the game of baseball from every person that takes the mound. When I first got called up to the big leagues for the White Sox, Mark Buerhle was the ace of the staff. I took a lot of time watching how he went about his business. I started to emulate him by working a little bit quicker and understood the importance of throwing strikes and attacking hitters. I would say he had the biggest impact as a professional pitcher, but day-to-day, I try to get a little something from everybody.
Now we’re going to move away from baseball a little bit. Talk to me about your high school experience.
High school was a great time for me. I really enjoyed it. I played three sports and was always active athletically. Academics always came first, but I really enjoyed that time. It’s such a time of growth. You literally transition from being a child to an adult and it’s very important time to start shaping your direction of where you want to go or where you are going to go.
You were also the valedictorian at McCutcheon High in Indiana. How did you balance being a three-sport athlete and your academics?
I did it with a consistent approach to my day. Every day, I knew it was going to be an early wake up, get to school, get all my schoolwork done within school hours. I really took advantage of free time within school, that way when I was done with my school day, I could move on to the athletic part of it. The downtimes that I had during high school, I always tried to fill those up by getting schoolwork done. I think, in fact, I know that helped out a lot.
Finally, do you have any advice for high schoolers in general?
Establish your work ethic now. Prioritize your work and see where that takes you. The more self-disciplined you are at getting through work, the better it will be for you no matter what route you go in life. Whether it be sports, music, or the real world, a good strong work ethic will carry you really far.
This is really good. I honestly can’t find many mistakes with it. I think its really cool that athletes at our school will be able to read this article and gain insight from a professional athlete. I found it interesting and inspiring