The coincidences keep piling up for two best friends from the University of Louisville.
To start with, Josh Richmond and Andrew Clark were selected in back-to-back rounds during last month’s Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
More unusual, both were taken by the same club, the Texas Rangers.
Texas then shipped both 2,050 miles away to Spokane, a city that neither knew existed.
To top it off, the pals have been batting back to back in the lineup during this week’s crucial series at Boise.
Now the two are hoping to be roommates again – with Rick and Debbie Ogan, the host family that welcomed Clark when he joined the Indians in late June.
Richmond first arrived in Spokane during last week’s five-game sweep of Vancouver. Richmond delayed signing a contract with Texas as he pondered whether he should return for his senior season at Louisville.
Richmond kept up with Clark’s (and the Indians’) progress during the Northwest League season’s first three weeks, relieved to see the Indians right themselves after a 1-7 start and concerned when Clark went on a tear after a 0-for-7 professional beginning.
“He would joke that I needed to go 0 for 4 so I didn’t get moved up before he got here,” said Clark, a first baseman/ designated hitter who hit .313 through his first 26 games.
“When he was hitting .350, I called him up to tell him to strike out a couple of times,” Richmond said.
Richmond, an outfielder, isn’t following that advice. He hit 5 for 13 (.385) with five RBIs in his first five games with Spokane.
When Richmond, of Cincinnati, came to Louisville for his freshman season, Clark was a sophomore who had just transferred from Ole Miss. The two new Cardinals had lockers next to each other and became quick friends.
Clark, who had pitched and played outfield in high school, settled in at first base at Louisville because surgery to his left shoulder had limited his throwing.
Richmond, a shortstop in high school, moved to the outfield. His father Jim had played middle infield in college, at Eastern Kentucky.
The Cardinals won Big East Conference tournament titles during the friends’ first two years, and began the 2010 season with a loaded roster and hopes of playing in the College World Series.
Richmond missed 41 games after breaking his hand while chasing down a fly ball, but the Cardinals’ depth kept them rolling along. Louisville set a team record with 50 wins and entered NCAA regionals with a national seventh seed and Richmond back on the roster, passing on a chance to redshirt.
Vanderbilt rose up and ended Louisville’s season at regionals.
“We had a great team, but obviously the way it ended we were disappointed,” Clark said. “We still talk about it today and it was rough.”
“It was a frustrating day,” Richmond said. “Can we move to the next question?”
The draft proved Louisville’s strength as 10 Cardinals were selected. Infielder Adam Duvall and catcher Jeff Arnold both went to San Francisco and are playing for Salem- Keizer, which comes to Spokane in two weeks.
Clark, a 13th-round choice, signed immediately.
“Obviously, as a senior, you don’t have a lot of leverage to bargain with, so they told me to show up on a certain day for short season and I said all right,” Clark said.
Richmond conferred with his agent about his options, but starting a professional career was his priority.
Clark, an Indianapolis native, struggled in Spokane’s first series but turned his year around with a 4-for-5 night on June 22.
“The first series was the first time I’d seen live pitching in three or four weeks,” Clark said. “To be honest, that was the first time I’d swung a wood bat since after my freshman year in college, when I went to the Cape Cod (summer) League.”
Richmond, who signed with Texas as a right fielder after playing center for the Cardinals, struck out twice during his pro debut last Friday but went 4 for 9 in his next three games without a strikeout.
The two will be busy this week as the Indians play seven home games in six days to complete the first half of the NWL season.
Spokane is battling with Boise for the first-half title and a postseason berth.
The Indians start tonight with three games against the Yakima Bears, then play four games against the Tri-City Dust Devils, including a doubleheader Sunday.
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