July 31, 2021
By Paresh Dave
YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Simeon Woods-Richardson, the youngest U.S. baseball player at the Tokyo Olympics, was woken up at 2 a.m. on Saturday by an unexpected phone call.
On it, the 20-year-old Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect learned he had been traded to the Minnesota Twins for young phenom Jose Berrios hours before Major League Baseball’s annual trading deadline.
“I was half-asleep,” he told Reuters late Saturday after the United States beat South Korea.
“I’m lucky I answered the phone. I couldn’t be happier. It’s just one of those things where baseball is a business, man. You have to be mature enough to know that. You have to be ready to be along for the ride and where the journey is going to take you.”
He joins fellow U.S. pitcher Joe Ryan, who learned last week at the Olympic dining hall that he had been traded to the Twins from the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s good to have a familiar face out there,” Woods-Richardson said.
One of the few Black players in a sport now increasing outreach to the community, Woods-Richardson said Saturday that while at the Games, he had found a small way to support the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equity.
He has written in marker on his cleats, “Say her name,” which calls attention to U.S. police brutality against unarmed Black women.
Team mate Edwin Jackson Jr, who struck out two Korean batters, printed the same phrase on his custom shoes for the Games, Woods-Richardson added.
Both have said that being African American players at baseball’s first Olympics appearance since 2008 is an important statement alone, with Woods-Richardson recalling being inspired as a child by a textbook photo of U.S. athletics medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos making the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.
Other U.S. baseball players speaking out include Cuban Americans Eddy Alvarez and Nick Martinez, who support recent anti-government protests in Cuba.
“Keep fighting. We hear you, we see you,” Martinez said.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave, editing by Pritha Sarkar)