WOODLAWN — There was a time when Tommy Richardson was too small to really compete against his big brother, Wayne.
Growing up in Woodlawn, Tommy and Wayne, 10 years separated, would do what competitive sibling brothers would do, play ball from sunup to sundown in the back yard. But Tommy was always the little brother, shadowed by his older brother’s stature and success.
Those days are long gone. And though the game of baseball remains a constant in Tommy’s life, Wayne has moved on to brighter retirement pastures, or woods as it turns out.
While Tommy remains in Woodlawn where he prepares the Bears for Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, Wayne just belted a grand slam in Nebraska on a turkey-hunting trip with hunting companion Jackie Rauls.
The duo accomplished the pinnacle of the sport on Tuesday while Tommy was back home hitting fungos and throwing batting practice. Wayne Richardson and Rauls both killed Marianas turkeys, Rauls in the morning, Richardson in the afternoon, to complete the cycle of four different breeds of turkey in four different states.
Wayne was scheduled to be gone for two weeks on the trip that would take the pair through a half dozen states, though the trip will be cut short as the elder will return home early to watch his younger sibling attempt to win his third state title.
And while Wayne is no stranger to producing state championship teams with four total titles at Watson Chapel (’88, ’91, ‘96, 2000), he doesn’t exactly envy Tommy’s position of trying to capture his third.
“I think I got out of it at the right time,” said Wayne, who retired in 2009 after 28 years of coaching. “I have really enjoyed these last few years. We are trying to get nine or 10 more states in this year.
“We were planning on two weeks but it looks like one week now or I might be the black sheep of the family.”
Not that Tommy would notice if his older brother weren’t in the stands. He will be busy in game mode come Saturday. But the level of respect would not diminish if Wayne happened to not make it.
“I have always had such a high level of respect for him,” Tommy said Wednesday afternoon as Woodlawn (32-5) ran through mid-week drills at Taylor Field. “He was more like a second father to me. I learned so much from him. I guess you could say I’m a thief because there’s not much I didn’t learn from him, my dad or while playing in college.”
With Wayne’s professional allegiances leaning towards Watson Chapel and coach Chad Cope, who was an assistant under Richardson in 2008-09, and his personal ties with his brother and the Bears, seeing both of them playing for a state title has the avid gobbler grabber split down the wish-bone.
“They say blood is thicker than water,” Richardson said with a laugh from his hotel room in Nebraska. “I’m pulling for both of them. But if you cut open my veins, I bleed black and gold.”
Since the two teams play in different classifications, Woodlawn in 2A and Chapel in 5A, Wayne could get the best of both worlds.
The only decision then would be which celebration party to attend.
Woodlawn will square off against Carlisle in Fayetteville while Chapel will play at 7 p.m. on Friday against cross-town and 5A-Southeast Conference rival White Hall.