Part 1 of a series: Desire and simplicity
By Jonathan Snyder
Cedarville baseball head coach Matt Richter keeps things simple. Simple practices, simple philosophy, simple tactics. Even his office setup is simple, with baseball memorabilia decorating the walls. Historical pieces complement a photo on his desk of Richter’s family at a baseball game.
Glance aimlessly and you miss the Junior College World Series ring he has on display in the far-right corner, a milestone on the long journey he has traveled.
Excitement grips Cedarville baseball as Richter starts his first head coaching job at the collegiate level. After touring California as an assistant in the early and mid-2000s, he joined the Athletes in Action team in Xenia and moved to Ohio. Richter has experience coaching pitchers, catchers, and base runners. He helped develop former Major League Baseball catcher Stephen Vogt while at Azusa Pacific.
Richter’s baseball journey started like many others before him. As a kid, he aspired toward the big leagues and pursued his dream throughout high school and college. He went to The University of Arizona, a Division I program, for a year before transferring to Westmont College, an NAIA program in California, for the rest of his schooling.
“I was a guy that was very average,” Richter said about his playing career. “There were times where I showed flashes of being above average, but I was never the best player anywhere I went.”
Knowing this about himself, Richter dedicated his free time to becoming the best player he could be. He knew that his work ethic would be vital in setting himself apart from his peers. Richter desires dedication to the simple things, believing those principles will improve his team.
Richter recalls the moment when he realized that while batting left-handed, he mostly hit lazy fly balls to left field. After studying his swing, he realized there was a simple fix. His swing was weaker on the left side of the plate. With Richter’s weaker hand, the bat drooped, and Richter found himself hitting the lower edge of the ball rather than the middle.
Richter spent countless hours driving the ball off a batting tee, strengthening his weaker side. The hard work and observations paid off. Driving the ball to the opposite field became a strength for Richter’s last two years playing collegiate ball.
Click on the pins to see information about each of Richter’s coaching stops.
Extensive practices and constant study of the game taught Richter the catalyst to becoming an elite player. He realized this extra effort was the payment the game demanded from the best, while giving him an insight into what character means.
“Your character is who you are when nobody else is looking,” Richter said. “As a baseball player, who you are going to become comes out of what you are doing on your own.”
Richter’s own character development accelerated when he was 16. He volunteered to help 8- and 9-year-old kids learn the fundamentals of the game. He adored it.
By the time his second year of college rolled around, he yearned to coach at the collegiate level. He wanted to teach baseball players the simple aspects of baseball, while molding them into men of character.
Richter credits the coaching staffs at Arizona and Westmont for influencing his style of keeping the game simple. Learning from Division I level coaches and learning how to love his players well are two values he took away from both institutions.
“There are coaches out there who are great motivators,” Richter said. “There are good coaches who deal with the mental side of competition, but I wanted to major specifically in the physical side and the fundamental side.”
Richter was officially announced as the head coach at Cedarville in early July, meaning he had limited time to rally the team behind his vision for them. Combine the time crunch with an established system under the previous regime, and the result was a long time before the team got comfortable with Richter.
“The guys were probably a bit timid in the fall,” he said. “Not timid in terms of the effort they gave, but timid in terms of showing their real personality around me.”
Eventually, the team found comfort with Richter. While he would love to push for the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Championship this spring, he is excited about the potential he sees in his players.
“How much better can our guys get throughout the year?” Richter asked.
Richter also pushes for spiritual growth from his teams. Coaching at a Christian college and being a believer, he regularly holds Bible studies with his players. Richter also understands that dealing with hardship in the moment is a part of growing spiritually.
“The best thing is to grab on to perspective,” Richter said, wanting his team to put baseball in its correct place in the grand scheme of life. Richter wants his team to embrace the gift of baseball that God has given to them.
While Richter wants his team to grow spiritually, he also acknowledges the pitfalls of pride as a head coach. He recognizes his anger when things do not go his way and his emotions in the moment that stem from his desire for success.
“My personal goal is that God would continue to remove that desire that my success and my failure is wrapped up in my record,” Richter said.
Richter’s openness about his shortcomings help him relate to his players. Through the fall, Richter built significant rapport with the team. Senior infielder Alan Perry is confident that in the years following his graduation, Richter will build a team its students can be proud of.
“Even though we might not see it directly this year, in two, three, four years, when Coach Richter is building a powerhouse, us seniors will have a small piece in it going forward,” Perry said.
Richter understands the game of baseball more than most people. He’s been with elite coaches throughout his life. While he has the qualifications of a tactical wizard or a great motivator, he refuses to play the role of savior. In Richter’s mind, that role belongs to God. Richter wants his team and himself to react to hardship well and keep things simple.