French follows baseball dream to Oklahoma
Just when Richard French figured he had taken his passion for baseball as far as he possibly could, another door opened up. A door that has led him to Oklahoma.
French, a 2000 Douglas High School graduate, is at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla., where he hopes to work his way into the lineup at second base for the Division II program this year.
“He (head coach Ron Clark) has told me I’m going to start so I’m pretty excited about that,” French said.
Not bad considering he hasn’t played in an official game in more than a year. After graduating from Douglas, he spent one season at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., then decided to leave the school. At this time last year, he was preparing to enroll at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno — and maybe start playing some slow-pitch softball.
“I went up to Reno (Truckee Meadows) and I thought I was all done with baseball,” French said. “I had kind of gave it up, actually, and then all of a sudden they were offering me a scholarship. It was pretty cool.”
Even though he never received any all-conference recognition while at Douglas, French pursued his passion to Feather River. He was there just one season, strictly in a reserve role.
“I was behind Julian Russell, who is now at Hawaii, so I wasn’t ashamed about that,” French said. “I still learned a lot. Those coaches are awesome up there (at Feather River). I learned everything about baseball from them, and from coach (Douglas High’s Hal) Wheeler.”
If his resume was somewhat lacking in the last two years, it didn’t deter the coaching staff at Oklahoma Panhandle State from contacting him last year. A good word from fellow Douglas grad Steve O’Brien appears to have helped out.
“Steve was there and I guess he talked me up. Then the coaches called Feather River, and they talked me up. I was just sitting at home and they (Oklahoma Panhandle State) started contacting me. It was just awesome. It was the biggest thrill of my life,” said French, who is carrying a major in animal science.
The Aggies were 6-39 this past season with a roster that included three Douglas products: Kyle Wentz, Steve and Joe O’Brien. Steve O’Brien, who pitched 40 innings in 2002, has returned for his senior year.
“They’re in the Heartland Conference, which is the No. 1 conference in the nation for D-II, so I feel pretty good about that,” French said. “The main thing, it’s a four-year college. I’ve always wanted to go this far and now I’ve finally done it. It’s a dream to play ball at a university, especially with all my friends going to universities now like T.J., Kenny Nicoll, and all those guys who are going to Dana.”
T.J. Bond, Chad Cooke and Kenny Nicoll are also headed to the Midwest to play baseball at Dana College in Blair, Neb. Nicoll signed with Dana last week.
Even though he hasn’t played ball in more than a year, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound French feels he is ready for his next challenge.
“I’m sure it’s going to be hard, but I’ve been playing catch and lifting weights all the time. I think I’m in the best shape of my life right now,” he said.
Playing baseball in Oklahoma is not what French envisioned, but he’ll take it.
“Not at all,” he said, adding with a smile, “but I hear the pheasant hunting is really good up there.”