Baseball’s Richardson finding a home at Villanova

Dave Jarman

Fresh cut green grass. The “pop” of aluminum smacking against a ball with 108 stitches of red cotton thread in a cage. The “smack” of the same ball hitting a pocket of a leather glove. Sunflower seeds all over the dugout. Dirt lifted up in the air because of engraved cleat marks down the first base line. 

These are the sights and sounds that have been engraved in Kagan Richardson since he was three years old.  The native of Rancho San Margarita, Calif., remembers the first time he was exposed to baseball. Born in Beverly Hills, Richardson and his father played wiffle ball in the hallways of his apartment complex before moving out of Los Angeles. “From that first memory, baseball has been my favorite sport” Richardson said. Growing up he would always have a ball in his hand and would cry if he did not have a ball.  

As a youth, his passion for baseball started to grow.  He always loved to play catch with his parents, but his parents stopped throwing with him because he started to throw harder, and the ball would hurt their hands. His father built him a batting cage in his backyard, and he practiced in there every day after school from 20 minutes to two hours. He even had a sign at his house saying “If we don’t answer, check the baseball field.” Little League was his first exposure to competitive baseball and became a huge part of his youth, because that’s where his foundation started. 

Additionally, the Little League he played for was the center of his community. He created bonds and friendships with teammates and coaches for his first travel team, the Capistrano Valley Cats, that he still keeps in contact with today. As Kagan developed into a young star baseball player, he knew that his goal in life was to play Division 1 and professional baseball.  

In high school, he was raised a Louisiana State University Tigers fan because of his family roots in Louisiana. “I knew I had to work my butt off (to play baseball at LSU) because they are one of the best teams in the country,” Richardson said. When he made the Varsity baseball team his junior year of high school, he knew that he needed to do well in order to get recruited to play college baseball. 

Unfortunately, despite the fact he did well as a pitcher, not many schools were looking at him because he did not throw hard enough. He initially had a few offers from small schools, but they did not interest Richardson. During his senior year of high school, he decided to commit to University of California at San Diego because he was guaranteed a spot on the baseball team and the engineering program was well established academically. Suddenly, between the summer of graduating high school and entering his freshman year of college, UC San Diego had a coaching change and his spot on the team was not guaranteed. In that same summer he received a call from one of the coaches at LSU, his dream school. 

“Hey, we know you want to come here, you have an academic scholarship here, we think we need some more pitching, so we will give you a look during fall practices” says Richardson recalling what the LSU coach told him. His backup plan was Santa Ana College, which is the number one junior college in California for baseball, because he guaranteed a spot on their team as well. 

Kagan decided to follow his heart and go to the school he always dreamed of going to as a child and give his dream a chance to become a reality. If it did not work out at LSU, he would decide to transfer to Santa Ana in the spring. 

But you never know until you try, right? 

The moment he stepped on the campus of LSU, he instantly fell in love with Baton Rouge. His best friend since he was three years old was going there, he established a great friend group, and he was able to visit family members frequently. When trying out for the baseball team during the fall, he did well in the scrimmages. Unfortunately, he still did not throw hard enough to earn a spot on the team and was eventually cut. 

He was then torn between staying at the school he loved his entire life or continuing his dream of playing college and professional baseball. 

Another option he had in addition to playing for Santa Ana was to play for LSU Eunice, which was the number one junior college team in Louisiana and was a feeder to LSU. LSU Eunice was two hours from LSU and he was able to stay close to friends and family. Although this option seemed appealing, Richardson decided to play at Santa Ana (where his spot was still guaranteed) and started practicing in December.  

Going to Santa Ana “was a fresh slate,” a second chance, and he knew he was coming to a good team with a good reputation. Known for producing pitchers like CJ Wilson of the Los Angeles Angels, Richardson knew he was getting a great opportunity and was motivated to work harder. The first half of his first season he was “Lights Out” as he recalls, but Richardson started having arm problems in the second half of the season and did not play well. 

In his second season at Santa Ana, his arm issues came to a head, after he partially tore his labrum during the second week of the season. He had an option to receive physical therapy in order to have a chance to play that season, but Richardson decided to get surgery on April 15, 2013, because he did not want to take a chance with PT. Because of the surgery, he was able to medically red shirt that season and not lose any eligibility. 

Despite the fact that Santa Ana was not his first choice, he is “… thankful to end up there because there were three players who lived in my same town and I knew of them from playing against each other in High School.” Richardson started a car pool with these three teammates and since then, they are the three best friends he has to this day. One of those three friends introduced him to electronic music festivals, and was able to establish the birthplace of his alias, “DJ Moose Trax.”   

After surgery, he encountered a similar predicament that he was in at LSU: whether to continue to play at Santa Ana or give up his dream of playing baseball to transfer back and get a degree from LSU, the school he has always loved. 

Instead of giving up, he decided to keep his dream of playing baseball alive by rehabbing quicker than expected and playing for the Orange County Brewers in the California Collegiate League in the summer.  While playing for the OC Brewers, two of his teammates (Josh Harris, Left-handed pitcher, and Brandon Car, outfielder/1B) played for Villanova and said that they could use some pitching. Joe Godri, the coach of Villanova, found out Kagan had good grades and offered him a spot on the team if he was able to get accepted to the prestigious university on the Main Line. With the support of his parents, he applied on the last date to the engineering school, and was able to find housing on West Campus.  

Richardson fell in love with Villanova and was able to have another clean slate. Last season, he was one of the best relief pitchers in the Big East with an Earned Run Average of 3.02 and led the team with 27 appearances, which ranked fifth in the Big East. He attributes his success to his years of experience and all the adversity he has overcome. 

One of the compliments he receives is that nothing phases him because he never plays too high or low. He also knows how to “put out a fire when there is a fire” and is able to pitch on multiple days without rest. He was able to discover at the D1 level to throw more pitches for strikes with his 3-pitch arsenal: fastball, curveball, and his favorite pitch, the screwball. Since he was 11 years old, this final pitch has been his “bread and butter” pitch because it moves like a “lefty slider”; So as a Right Handed Pitcher, he is able to throw a Left handed pitcher’s pitch.  His team goal is to win the Big East because it has been a number of years since Villanova Baseball has had a winning season. 

Personal goals he wants to achieve are: to set the single season record for appearances, lead the Big East as relief pitcher of the year, and sweep rivals like Georgetown and Saint John’s. His lasting impact at Villanova: 

“I want my success on and off the field, perseverance in the classroom and social access of life: all this to impact all my team mates now and after (my career).”

Richardson feels he sets the example not as an athlete, but a student athlete representing “Villanovan Values.” 

Through these characteristics and interacting with him as an orientation counselor, there are not enough words that can describe the kind of character Richardson has as a student athlete to Nova Nation.