Coach Matt Richter and the Jackets march together to a fresh start in 2023

By Jonathan Snyder

Spring brings the promise of new beginnings. Familiar rhythms resound throughout Yellow Jacket Field.
Crack. Pop. Whoosh. Crunch. All these sounds signal the start of something new. Winter’s white and
gray dullness gives way to spring’s vibrant greens and browns. It is a time when anything feels possible.

While Cedarville’s baseball team retains eight seniors, significant changes abound behind the scenes.
Head coach Matt Richter takes the reins, replacing previous coach Mike Manes. Richter comes into the
team with 20 years of assistant coaching experience between California and Ohio, but only one year as a
high school head coach. Coaching at Cedarville is Richter’s first experience as a head coach at the
collegiate level.

“We just assumed Manes was going to be back,” said Alan Perry, a senior infielder. “And then after our
last game, he told us, and it was a shock to everyone.”

Throughout the summer, the Yellow Jackets had early conversations with Richter about his expectations
for the squad. In mid-June, the team and Richter talked on a zoom call for about 30 minutes.

Throughout the call, the team saw Richter’s passion for growing the Yellow Jackets as people and as
baseball players.

“He told us he’s not a ‘rah rah’ guy, but we could tell straight from the first call that he’s passionate
about baseball,” Perry said.

Through the fall, the team started to acclimate to Richter’s coaching style. Over time, Richter felt that
the team got comfortable with his personality.

“I would say the guys were probably a little timid in the fall. Not timid in terms of the effort they gave,
but timid in terms of showing their personality around me,” Richter said.

Throughout the preseason, the Jackets focused on returning to the game’s simpler parts. Defensive
work, bunting practice and running speed are all critical points of emphasis for Richter.

“Ultimately, that’s what he wants us to do, make the game as easy as possible,” Perry said.
Richter is also open with his team, constantly looking to bond with them and help the team grow.
Jensen Wagoner, a freshman pitcher, met with Richter early in the fall and he helped Wagoner acclimate
to life as a student-athlete.

“I settled into the team about three weeks into the school year,” Wagoner said. “Coach Richter helped a
lot with that, just texting me, and I would stop in and have conversations about classes.”

Optimism spread throughout the roster as the season began at Lincoln Memorial University on February
3rd. The Jackets sprinted to a 4-0 lead in the first four innings.

Coach Matt Richter: “The question is, how much better can our guys get over the course of the year.”
Photos by Logan Howard

Then it started to fall apart. The Jackets gave up seven runs in the 4th inning. The runs piled up inning
after inning. Four, then six, then eight.

“Is that the worst head coaching debut in the history of college baseball?” Richter wondered to himself.
The scoreboard conveyed a horrific sight. 25-5.

That kind of loss could have easily led to distrust amongst the team. How could Richter open a new era
of baseball like that?

“We have to find a way to build from this,” Perry said, reacting to the loss. “Yeah, last week happened.
Now we have to find a way to adjust.”

The next series against Saginaw Valley State shook off any early season jitters, with the Jackets winning
two out of the three games. As the team believes in Richter and each other, their on-the-field play

“We have a pretty tight bond,” Wagoner said. “It’s only up for us. We’ve come a long way since we first
started playing together in the fall.”

Richter and the squad know they can still play good baseball. Despite losing significant talent to
graduation, the Jackets believe that they can take steps toward becoming an elite program when all the
pieces come together.

“We lost power. We lost some speed,” Richter said. “The question is, how much better can our guys get
over the course of the year?”

Richter wants the team to embrace the opportunity to walk and get on base. Richter desires a team of
players comfortable in a small ball role rather than a team full of high-risk, high-reward sluggers.

While the Jackets may not be as athletic as some other teams in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference,
Richter feels that if the guys play the game well, they will win consistently. With teams like Trevecca
Nazarene and Tiffin University near the top of the conference year in and year out, execution becomes
much more critical.

Part of a coach’s role at the college level is about mentoring players to become better people. Richter
fully embraces the opportunity to help his players grow spiritually. He believes the best way to help guys
grow is not through repetitive Bible studies but by pulling guys aside in the moment and addressing
issues immediately. When guys get angry or blow up, Richter emphasizes putting baseball in its proper

“First of all, baseball is not that important,” Richter said. “Baseball is first and foremost a gift from God.”

Richter relates with guys who put baseball over everything else. He played at Westmont College in
California and saw the drive to become an elite player consume him. He instills lessons in his players
about putting baseball in perspective, and Richter himself wants to see those lessons change his life as

Cedarville baseball is getting a new philosophy with Richter — a fresh start to a new year and a new era.
While the Yellow Jackets remain humble, spring brings about hope and belief. Richter and the Jackets
know anything is possible when the umpire yells, “Play Ball!”

Jonathan is a senior Journalism major and writer for Cedars. He loves any sport he can find and has an
extensive collection of team hats, which he models nonstop.

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