When the Kansas City Royals came to Fenway Park in Boston last week, the most popular player this side of Xander Bogaerts or J.D. Martinez was probably Richard Lovelady.
The Royals reliever had his own cheering section as a group of players from the Ocean State Waves took advantage of an off day to head north and catch up with one of their own. Lovelady played for the Waves in 2015 and is the franchise’s only current alum in Major League Baseball.
“Seeing Lovelady was awesome,” said Waves president and general manager Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar. “He means a lot to our organization.”
Lovelady came to the Waves from the junior college ranks at East Georgia College. He was committed to Kennesaw State and used a strong summer with the Waves as a springboard into the spring of 2016. He made 19 appearances for the Waves and pitched to a 1.90 ERA, with 28 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. He saved five games. His success earned him a selection to the New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game.
In his lone season at Kennesaw State, he set a program record for most appearances in a single season, finishing with a 2.96 ERA and four saves. Opponents hit just .186 against him.
That spring, the Royals selected him in the 10th round of the MLB Draft, making him one of the highest picks in Waves history.
In the minors, Lovelady emerged as a dominant reliever, putting up sub-3.00 ERAs in three consecutive seasons. On April 9, 2019, he got the call to the majors and made his debut that night, striking out two in an inning of relief.
Lovelady made 25 appearances in 2019 and finished with a 7.65 ERA. After just one appearances in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, he’s spent time at Triple A Omaha and with the Royals this season, pitching to a 6.23 ERA with the big league club.
“His career path and work ethic are very inspiring to our guys to hopefully get to be in his position one day,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said.
Waves players met with Lovelady before the game from the first row of the third-base stands, chatting and taking photos. Hirschbein-Bodnar gave Lovelady a new Waves hat and they took a group photo.
“He’s always willing to meet the guys, say hello, talk to them and remind them he was once in their shoes, throwing in the same bullpen at Old Mountain Field,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said. “Every time he takes the mound in the big leagues, it’s the same mindset as when he was back at Old Mountain - just compete every pitch and leave it all out there.”
Lovelady stays in touch with Hirschbein-Bodnar, as well as the Snow family, whom he stayed with while a member of the Waves.
Lovelady made one appearance in the Boston series and tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief. It was just what his cheering section wanted to see.
“He’s a legend back here and everyone has been following his career,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said. “A true fan favorite.”