Richmond natives find comfort playing for Squirrels

Right-handed pitcher Connor Overton pitched in seven games last season for the Flying Squirrels, striking out 23. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Not too often does a Minor League Baseball player get to live at home during the season, but for two Richmond Flying Squirrels, that’s the luxury of playing at The Diamond.

Right-handed pitcher Connor Overton, a native of Mechanicsville, played high school baseball at Atlee and college baseball at Old Dominion.

The first ever Richmond native to play for the Squirrels — catcher Matt Winn — played high school baseball at J.R. Tucker, collegiately at VMI and joined the San Francisco Giants affiliate in 2016.

“It’s cool, you get your friends and family out here,” Winn said. “You get to represent Richmond in a good way, just I feel honored just to be able to do that.”

Minor League Baseball has been in Richmond since 1966 and is a staple for summer nights. The Richmond Braves played at The Diamond from 1985-2007, but began playing in Richmond in 1966, and inspired many young baseball players. Overton and Winn are no exception.

“I grew up coming to the games and watching the guys,” Overton said. “At the time, it’s a dream like, ‘Man, I want to be out there doing what these guys are doing.’ Then to actually be able to do it, especially in your hometown is absolutely surreal.”

Winn said he also went to Braves games at The Diamond growing up.

Catcher Matt Winn played in 19 games last season for the Flying Squirrels. He hit .255 with six doubles and one home run. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Living at home, rather than renting an apartment, helps the players save money, Overton said.

Living at home also takes the stress of finding an apartment days after arriving in Richmond, allowing Overton and Winn to focus on the routine of playing baseball every day at home.

“A lot of guys who haven’t been here, they’re struggling to find apartments and that whole first couple weeks are really stressful, just to get in the groove,” Overton said. “Luckily for me, I get to go home and just be super comfortable and kind of get into a routine.”

Another perk to living at home is home-cooked meals during the season, which are hard to come by for most in Minor League Baseball. Winn said his mom’s spaghetti is very good, and it’s available to his teammates, too.

“[Matt] Winn, he told us that we can come over whenever we want, if we feel like we want to eat some home cooking,” outfielder Jacob Heyward said.

Since Overton and Winn are the only two players on the team that are from the area, their teammates often ask them for recommendations on where to go in Richmond.

“All the time,” Winn said. “All during Spring Training, guys would ask, ‘Hey, where’s a good place to live?’ I’d recommend around Short Pump, downtown areas. They’d ask where to get coffee, good coffee places, good food places.”

Winn also likes to get outdoors and fish, so he plans on taking some of his teammates fishing on an off day during the season.

“[We’ve] got a few guys that like to fish,” he said. “I’m a big fisher, so I’m going to take them out eventually on a couple off days.”

The grind of Minor League Baseball can also be very stressful — for the two Richmond natives, playing at home provides an outlet to escape the toll of the game.

“It’s easier for me to kind of get away from baseball because I have my friends and family out here and I can kind of do things that are not really baseball related on off days and just get away from everything,” Winn said. “Being able to do that helps, helps a lot during the long season.”

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