FRENCHTOWN — When he’s on the baseball diamond, Tradd Richardson is constantly evaluating the game situation.
He intensely thinks over the different scenarios, repeatedly analyzing the possible outcomes between pitches while playing third base for the Missoula Mavericks. Richardson did the same thing on the football field this past fall when he was Frenchtown’s kicker.
Like many athletes, Richardson has an obsessive focus and intensity, but unlike those athletes, it’s essential for Richardson. If he’s not consumed by the tasks at hand, Richardson’s Tourette syndrome (TS) might force an untimely tic.
“It’s like just little habits that you do on a daily basis that you can’t control,” Richardson said of his Tourette symptoms. “Subconsciously you probably think about it and know that you’re doing it, but it’s just something you can’t stop.”
Richardson and his family discovered his TS when he was in about third grade. His dad, Mark Richardson, also grew up with the syndrome, and it’s often passed from father to son. Mark’s most obvious tic was nodding his head when he was younger. Tradd said his most common tics are “eye and neck things I do a little bit. Then I make a few noises here and there, but that’s about the extent of it at this point.”
Tradd said his tics were more severe when he was younger. By the time he was in high school, most of the tics had disappeared — so much so that Ryne Nelson, the Frenchtown football coach, was unaware Tradd had TS until recently.
On the baseball field, Richardson might scratch his elbow or rotate and massage his shoulder. The habits are inconspicuous enough, but they’re unavoidable for Richardson when he’s standing at second or third base after looping a ball into the outfield.
“Since I’ve had such a history with Tradd, I know him very well, and I can see things at times,” said Mavs coach Brent Hathaway, who also taught Richardson in eighth-grade math. “But in the moment of competition, no, I don’t see it. He is focused, and he’s very into the game.”
It’s that focus that helps keep Richardson’s tics at bay.
“Sports is definitely a thing that helps settle it,” he said. “It gives me something else to focus on and just enjoy that. It gets my mind clear and goes away from that.”
“I just feel like there’s kind of the aspect of it where I understand the mental side of sports, and the mental part’s one of my favorite parts,” Richardson added. “It just gives me something where I can just focus on that, think about that and just enjoy that part of it. My mind just goes clear, and I don’t think about anything. I just feel like it helps just kind of calm me.”
Richardson has proven he has the ability to stay calm in any athletic environment. He’s the definition of a multi-sport athlete, starring on the baseball diamond in the summer and the soccer pitch and football field in the fall. He was an all-state player on the Broncs’ soccer team and an all-conference kicker on the football team where he was a perfect 40 for 40 on point-after attempts.
“I kind of think that the term athlete gets thrown around a little too loosely sometimes, but for someone like him who’s done multiple sports and been successful at all of them, he is truly an athlete,” said Nelson. “He’s the type of kid that as soon as we realized that it was going to work with doing both soccer and being able to fit some football stuff in there, too, that he was out practicing every chance that he got. It’s his work ethic and his attitude about things, just his willingness to put the effort needed to be successful.”
As good as Richardson played in the fall, it’s the summer when he plays his best. Richardson is a standout multi-tool player for the Missoula Mavs, playing all over the Class AA American Legion Baseball diamond. Last summer, Richardson had 55 hits in 179 at-bats, knocking in a team-leading 45 runs. His .307 batting average was third-best on the team, and his .413 on-base percentage was second-best.
“He’s a multi-talented, multi-player type guy. He plays third base very, very well for us, he catches, he dabbles a little bit on the pitching side of the sport, as well. His versatility is one thing that stands out very much,” Hathaway said. “He’s consistent. He goes out and he plays every day, plays well. That’s the big thing. It’s not a peak-and-valley type sport. It’s something that you just have to grind out every day and be consistent, and that’s really one of his strengths.”
“As a baseball player, I’d say I’m pretty coachable. I try to do things how the coaches want done, work hard, kind of just put my head down, get work done and try focusing on every rep, making it a good one,” said Richardson, who will graduate from Frenchtown High School this spring and play out another season with the Mavs.
He’s committed to play baseball at Lassen Community College in Susanville, Calif., where he plans to study sports medicine. Richardson is doing his best now to prepare for that future by taking advanced placement classes at Frenchtown.
“I’m very math-minded, and I enjoy science a lot,” he said. “Probably my hardest two classes are AP calc and AP biomedical science, so those are definitely challenging, but I enjoy going through them and learning new things.”
He’s a strong student carrying a 3.7 grade-point average, and he appreciates the singular focus required in math and science classes. Reading or listening to lectures, for example, might allow his mind to wander. It’s in those moments when his tics become most obvious.
Stress makes the tics worse, too, but Richardson has become an expert at transferring stress to focus.
“Those kind of high-pressure moments, my mind is more focused rather than stressed out,” he said. “I feel like I’m more calm in those situations.”
Which is why you’ll see him on third base, meticulously analyzing every detail of the game.