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Simeon Woods Richardson returned from Tokyo with a silver medal and a new habit: “I’ve caught myself bowing to a couple of people,” he says with a laugh. Joe Ryan has let slip the occasional arigato gozaimasu—Japanese for thank you. For a few days, neither of them were totally sure what time it was or even where they lived.
You can’t really blame them: It’s been two and a half weeks since the members of the United States baseball team boarded their flights home from the Olympics. MLB rules stipulate that players on 40-man rosters are not eligible for the Games, so the returning Olympians comprise of recent retirees and minor leaguers. The retirees got as long as they needed to ease back into their normal lives. Most minor leaguers got a couple of days. And some got even less time: Woods Richardson and Ryan were traded, both to the Twins organization in separate deals, while they were gone and had to join their new teams.
For Woods Richardson, that meant leaving the Blue Jays’ Double A team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, for Minnesota’s Double A team, the Wichita Wind Surge. (Woods Richardson, a right-handed pitcher, became the Twins’ No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, when he arrived in exchange for righty José Berríos.) Ryan left the Rays’ Triple A Durham Bulls for Minnesota’s Triple A St. Paul Saints. (Ryan, also a right-handed pitcher, became the Twins’ No. 6 prospect when the team made him part of the Nelson Cruz swap.)
“I’m glad I told [the Team USA staff about the trade],” muses Woods Richardson. “If I didn’t, I’d probably still be in New Hampshire.”
Those early days still have their heads spinning. Woods Richardson learned of his fate when Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins called him at 2:30 a.m. Tokyo time on July 31. Atkins had forgotten about the time difference. “Hey man, what are you doing?” he asked.
“To be honest, I’m kind of half asleep,” Woods Richardson answered.
In the days that followed, he found an apartment near his new ballpark. He asked his parents to drive his car from Manchester to Wichita. When he landed, he spent four days recovering before meeting the team in Tulsa. He feels mostly set up but has not pitched yet.
Ryan is still dealing with the fallout. He too had four days off, but he had to spend that time packing his Durham, N.C., apartment. (It ended up being more like two days. “I was useless for the first two days I was there,” he says.) Shipping his car to St. Paul was easy enough, but some of the details tripped him up.
“You gotta do the Spectrum box,” he says. “It's like, ‘Oh, well, can my buddy drop it off for me?' And they're like, ‘No, it's $30 a month for, like, ever if you can't drop it off.’”
The trade caught him off guard logistically, but he had been mentally preparing for it since before he left. He spent his last night in Durham with fellow Tampa Bay pitching prospect Brent Honeywell talking about how one of them would likely be gone by the time Ryan returned.
“I think being with the Rays and seeing how things go, there's a good chance you're probably going to get traded at some point,” Ryan says now. “It's a place where . . . you're probably not going to be there to have a 20-year career.”
He identifies several silver linings: After enduring 26-hour travel days and pitching in 105-degree weather, he says, he will never complain about long flights or excessive heat again. And he thinks the chaos of the past few weeks has benefited him. He is so busy figuring out what to do about his cable box and losing his arigato reflex that he hasn’t had time to become overwhelmed by his new life.
“I feel like I have to be in the moment to stay sane right now,” he says. “Maybe having all this extra ridiculous stress that I had to deal with will help me with pitching because then I can just stay focused on whatever I'm doing.”
The Olympics was a highlight of his career. Still, it’s good to be home.
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