Stevens: Richard Olson Beat The Australian Odds To Become A Lobo
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/18/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

May 18, 2011

Complete Series Notes: Lobos vs. TCUGet Acrobat Reader

Lobo Baseball -- At Isotopes Park
Lobos vs. TCU Horned Frogs
When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday -- 12 noon each day
On The Air: ESPN Radio 101.7 (FM) The TEAM
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Recap, Box Score

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The odds of an Australian baseball player ending up at the University of New Mexico -- or simply on American soil -- surely aren't that good. However, the odds against an Australian baseball player like Richard Olson are stacked from the beginning.

It is a land where Australian rules football, rugby and cricket are King with maybe soccer, tennis and golf hanging around the throne.

In Australia, you have a better chance of growing up to be a kangaroo trainer than you do of being a baseball player. OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get the point. In Australia, if you see a mate moseying over to the local sandlot with a bat and helmet in his hand, he is looking for a biting game of cricket.

It wasn't that way for Richard Olson. For some reason that even Olson can't really explain, the family latched onto baseball the way a Brazilian family might link to soccer.

"I'm not sure my parents even knew what baseball was when I started," said Olson, who was born in Sydney, Australia. "I think there were maybe three people out of the 1,000 people at my high school who even played baseball.

"My dad had no baseball background, but the whole family fell in love with it. Baseball took hold of me and my three brothers and we ran with it."

The running around the bases for Olson began when he was four-years-old and progressed to club ball, to national ball and eventually to Clarendon (Texas) Junior College. Olson threw out a solid 4.25 ERA in 2009, got named to the Western Junior College All-Conference team and was plucked up by Lobo Coach Ray Birmingham, who was looking to deepen his pitching staff.

The odds for Olson came into play at Clarendon, too. He went to Clarendon as a catcher, but the squad was top heavy at that spot. He was moved to shortstop and then told to learn another position. So, what are the odds of an Australian baseball player -- who never pitched until college -- making a D-I roster for his mound work?

"I played about two weeks of shortstop and they told me I had to find another position or go home," said Olson, the only senior on UNM`s 2011 roster. "I had been catching for years and hadn't played shortstop for years. I decided to try pitching. I had never really pitched before.

"It took me 14 years to learn I was better at pitching than anything else."

Olson's first weekend on the mound for Clarendon produced two innings of relief work and two saves. "It was a good start," he said. "I struck out a few batters."


"It took me 14 years to learn I was better at pitching than anything else."
Lobo senior Richard Olson

By the end of the 2008 season, he was in the starting rotation. He worked on his pitching over the summer, got some pitching instruction, and came back as Clarendon's No. 1 arm.

So far in 2011, Olson has experienced what most of the young Lobos have experienced against Birmingham's Murderers' Row schedule. He has taken a few lumps. He has 19 appearances and seven starts in forming a 3-6 record with a 5.98 ERA.

He is scheduled to start Friday against TCU. On Saturday, UNM's Senior Day could be changed to Richard Olson Day. As noted, he is the lone Lobo senior.

"I've tried to take that (leadership role) on my back this year," said Olson. "It's been tough because we've played some of the best teams in the country. We haven't played any bottom feeders."

The TCU Frogs definitely aren't bottom feeders. They have clinched the 2011 Mountain West Conference regular-season title and are locks to make the NCAA field whether or not they grab the MWC tourney crown, too.

The Frogs don't like to lose to anyone, but with their sixth consecutive MWC title in hand, the motivation factor favors the Lobos. UNM also could use some momentum to carry into the MWC tourney in San Diego where the NCAA automatic bid awaits the winner.

"TCU definitely are the bullies," said Olson. "I can't say we like them because they beat us too much. But we respect them and you have to love playing against them because they are good every year and they are a great challenge. They give you the kind of game you want.

"Pitching against them is fun because they are intense and play the game the right way in every aspect. They are what we are striving to be. If you can compete or pitch well against them, you can do it against anybody because they are such a high caliber team.

"Against them, you have to get going from the first pitch or they'll make it hurt."

MWC BRACKET: The bracket for the six-team, double-elimination 2011 Mountain West Baseball Tournament will be finalized on Saturday. TCU has clinched the No. 1 seed and Utah is set at No 2. The No. 3 through No. 6 seeds will be determined by UNM, UNLV, SDSU and BYU. Air Force has been eliminated from the tournament field.