TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's D'Vontrey Richardson had stashed his baseball glove in the closet for so long, it was as forgotten as a worn out pair of sneakers.
"I barely even touched it," he said.
Richardson, who started in the outfield as a freshman, couldn't play baseball last year due to academic issues. And football filled his days in the summer and fall. But with his grades now in order, the Seminoles' backup quarterback has retrieved that old glove and found that it still fits as comfortably as ever.
"I've got a feeling he's going to do pretty good," said football coach Bobby Bowden, who gave Richardson his blessing to miss offseason workouts as well as spring practice to play baseball.
Pretty good? Baseball coach Mike Martin said the speedy, powerful 6-foot-2, 215-pound Richardson, his starting rightfielder entering Friday's season opener against Hofstra, is a "legit five-tool guy" with a sky's-the-limit future.
Although Richardson insists he's returning to football, albeit as a safety and not as a quarterback, he's projected as a high pick in the June baseball draft, perhaps even a first-rounder.
"I know it's right around the corner," he said, "but I'm just trying to focus on getting better at baseball."
Watching Richardson glide toward the gap and effortlessly snag a sinking line drive in practice, you can understand the instructions his prep coach, Rob Williams, used to give the Lee County (Ga.) High right and leftfielders:
"Play from where you're standing to the lines.
"Let D-Vo take everything else."
That wasn't meant as a knock on the abilities of anyone else on the perennially powerful team. Instead, it was a testament to what Richardson could do with his glove.
"We felt like when the ball went up the air, it was going to be an F-8," Williams said, referring to the scoring abbreviation for a flyout to the centerfielder.
Former FSU catcher Buster Posey, the consensus national player of the year in 2008 and the fifth pick overall by San Francisco, still remembers a catch his prep and FSU teammate made in the 2005 state playoffs:
Richardson raced to his right, jumped and reached across his body to make the play before crashing into the wall. Richardson popped up and began trotting into the dugout, prompting Williams to bark at him to show the ball to the umpire.
"D'Vontrey's just a phenomenal athlete," Posey said. "At first glance, you can tell that."
Richardson was selected in the 35th round by Washington in the 2006 draft but came to FSU, where he was promised the chance to play football and baseball.
He sat out in football that first year but was an impact player for Martin's bunch, hitting .351 with 41 runs and 20 RBIs. When he couldn't play baseball last season, it gave him the chance to spend more time on football and, after limited action in 2007, he challenged for the starting job.
Richardson, 20, flashed his talent as a runner and passer but couldn't win the job from fellow redshirt sophomore Christian Ponder and saw less and less time as the season progressed. He decided to move to defense in the fall and seems unfazed by that challenge.
"If he can learn the position, he's got some skills you don't teach. You don't teach speed. You don't teach ball skills," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said.
But will he have to try to make that move? Andrews and others sure sound skeptical.
"If somebody offered you a million dollars to change jobs, would you change?" Andrews said of Richardson's baseball draft prospects. "He says he wants to come back and play football, but you know …"
Richardson's return to baseball began, appropriately enough, back home in Georgia after FSU's bowl game. He broke out his bat and glove and began hitting and throwing with his longtime friend and prep teammate Thomas Nichols.
"I told D'Vontrey, 'Once you get back into the swing of things, you'll be fine; it'll be just like the old times,' " said Nichols, a sophomore pitcher/infielder at Georgia Tech.
Perhaps even better. Richardson's time playing football has given him a better understanding of the need for preparation and, most importantly, a better perspective on dealing with a mistake.
Raw ability is great. It's just not enough.
And Richardson seemingly has caught on to that.
"The biggest surprise I've seen thus far is, he's been out of the game for a year and a half and yet he seems to be much improved from when he left here as a freshman," Martin said. "This is a guy who really looks polished. Certainly, he's not shiny, but the polish is on there and we're ready to wipe it off. He just needs to play."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.