YOKOHAMA, Japan — 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, who has spent this season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, learned he and Fisher Cats infielder/outfielder Austin Martin 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.
Teammate 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.
Martin, 22, is the Blue Jays’ No. 2 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The No. 5 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, he is batting .281 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 55 games with Double-A New Hampshire.
Woods-Richardson, 20, owns a 2-4 record with a 5.76 ERA in 11 appearances (all starts) with New Hampshire this season.
He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the New York Mets before being traded to Toronto for pitcher Marcus Stroman.