The Peninsula Oilers announced Monday that Kyle Richardson will be replacing John Stevens as head coach for the 2013 season.
Richardson, 25, has been an Oilers assistant for the past two years and is currently the head assistant at Yuba College in California. In 2011, the Oilers won the Alaska Baseball League and finished second in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Last season, the Oilers finished second in the ABL.
“Kyle was with us the last two years and I just liked the way he managed the field and the players,” said James Clark, general manager of the Oilers. “He can relate to players, but at the same time they respect him. They know who’s in charge.”
Clark said the baseball operations committee decided not to bring Stevens back. Clark said he makes recommendations to the committee, but he does not make the final decision.
“There were just some things we saw leadershipwise that we thought we would go in a different direction,” Clark said. “We thought Kyle was good for that.”
Once the Oilers decided to go in a different direction, Clark focused quickly on Richardson. As one of the top summer programs in the country, he said he received 30 resumes from coaches last summer.
“What worked in favor of Kyle is I got to see him hands-on every day,” Clark said. “It really impressed me the way he was able to relate to the guys and get them to listen.”
For Richardson, the job continues a rapid rise since he completed his playing career at Cal State Bakersfield in 2010.
Dennis Machado, the Kenai Central graduate who coached the Oilers to the ABL title in 2011, was the pitching coach at California State University, Bakersfield while Richardson was a player there.
Machado wanted to bring Richardson up to Alaska as a volunteer assistant in 2011, but when Machado’s other assistants couldn’t make the trip, Richardson was made a paid assistant.
“We talked a little bit that summer about me being a head coach,” Richardson said. “He taught me a lot about how to manage a bullpen, and keep pitchers fresh and ready to pitch.”
When Machado departed after the 2011 season, Richardson said he continued to learn a lot from Stevens, whose speciality is hitting.
“They have two different styles and both of them work,” Richardson said of the managing styles of Machado and Stevens.
Richardson said he was always preparing to be a head coach. He didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
“When I talked to Dennis I didn’t think it would be three years,” he said. “I thought it would be maybe five or six years.”
After Stevens’ initial disappointment, Richardson said that he and Stevens still talk about the team.
“It’s not very often somebody is replaced by somebody and you still like that person,” Richardson said. “I still talk to John all the time.
“If anybody was going to take over the team, John wanted it to be me. It’s comforting in that sense. I don’t want to speculate on the reasons they didn’t bring him back. I thought he did a great job but the board decided to go in a different direction.”
Richardson said he told Stevens he wished he could bring him back as the hitting coach. Stevens respectfully declined that offer.
Brandon Boren, who played with Richardson at Cal State Bakersfield, will take over as hitting coach. Boren is entering his first year as a coach at Cal State Bakersfield.
Boren hit .393 in his senior year at Cal State Bakersfield.
“He might not be as mechanically knowledgeable as John, but he knows how to approach the game from a hitting standpoint,” Richardson said. “I saw him tear up Division I pitching for two years.”
Machado broke from tradition as an Oilers head coach by not playing small ball. Swinging away continued under Stevens, and Richardson said he will continue to use the bunt as little as possible.
“Where it helps is with the development of players,” Richardson said. “They’re going to have to figure out how to hit a guy throwing 92 with stuff.”
Ryan Stevens will take over as pitching coach. Stevens is not related to John Stevens or Dave Stevens, who is the brother of John Stevens and was the pitching coach last year.
Ryan Stevens is an assistant at Sierra College in California. Stevens and Richardson won a junior college state championship as players at Sierra in 2008.
“He’s a very organized guy,” Richardson said. “He’s not a pitching guy by trade, but all these guys have pitching coaches at their own respective colleges. He will help with organization and making sure the pitchers do what their coaches have laid out for them.”
John Kennedy, the head coach at Kenai Central, will return for a third year as assistant.
“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever been around,” Richardson said.
He said Kennedy knows all the things that make Alaska fun on the Kenai Peninsula and all the great places to eat while on the road.
Richardson and Clark have been working on putting the team together, and the roster is nearly complete. Richardson said he has been depending on contacts with connections to the Oilers, and also his own network.
“My first year, Dennis had me call the coach of every guy we had,” Richardson said. “He said that when I was the coach, I’d have to be able to call those guys for myself. So I made connections with those coaches myself.”
Richardson knows getting the head job with the Oilers so soon out of college is a huge opportunity, and he plans to prove himself.
“I don’t feel like me being named the head coach is a fluke,” Richardson said. “I’ve put in two quality years showing what I know. They just as easily could have opened up the job hunt to other names.”
Even though Alaskans are just entering the months of winter and Richardson hasn’t started his college season, Richardson is anxious to get up here.
“I know we’re at Thanksgiving, but I think about it every day,” he said.