Family and baseball are interchangeable in the Palacios household. The game’s a tradition – passed down like genes from one generation to the next.
Before Towson University shortstop Richie Palacios could walk, he had a glove and ball in his hands. The junior from Brooklyn N.Y., cherishes the little family time he gets these days. Luckily for Palacios, baseball is his family’s business.
His dad, Richard Palacios Sr., spent time in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system.
His uncle, Rey, played alongside Bo Jackson and George Brett for parts of three seasons with the Kansas City Royals.
Palacios’ older brother, Josh, played outfield at Auburn University before the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft. He hit .280 in 91 games at Class-A Lansing last year.
Palacios never had the opportunity to watch his dad or uncle play. But as the youngest child, he was the beneficiary of a generation’s worth of baseball knowledge.
“It’s good to have them there just to guide me down the correct path for what I want to do,” Palacios said. “They’re a step ahead of me, so it’s always good to have them feeding positivity and showing me what I can expect at the next level.”
Falling in love with the game
Before he became the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year, Palacios spent brisk Brooklyn mornings on the diamond taking batting practice and fielding ground balls. However, it was off the field — and nearly two decades earlier — when Palacios first fell in love with baseball.
“When I was three years old, I would go to watch my brother play T-ball, but I wasn’t allowed to play because I was too young,” Palacios said. “So, every time I would go to the field, I’d be crying to my mother to let me get on the field. From then on, honestly, once I picked the ball up I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Palacios chased his baseball dreams to high school at the Berkeley Carroll School, a college prep school in Brooklyn. Josh Palacios, who is nearly two years older, recalls facing his younger brother’s school in a highly anticipated matchup.
“As he came up to the plate, I decided to challenge him by playing him real shallow in the outfield,” Josh said. “As I came in, I laughed and made sure he saw it. The next pitch he put the ball about 20 feet over my head for a triple. To this day, (my family) still doesn’t let me live that one down.”
Although he was heavily recruited, Palacios, now listed as 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, was told he was too small to play at a high-level, Division 1 school.
“I just used that stuff to motivate me,” Palacios said.
Becoming a Tiger
Former Towson head coach Mike Gottlieb’s New York ties brought Palacios to Towson. In need of a shortstop, a summer league coach in New York recommended Gottlieb take a look at Palacios. Gottlieb watched him play, and was immediately sold. The interest was mutual.
Uncertainty surrounded Towson baseball after the team was nearly forced into extinction due to budget cuts in 2013. Despite the baseball program’s potential instability, Palacios’ commitment to Towson never wavered.
“My father always told me to go to a school where if baseball wasn’t an option, I’d still enjoy going there,” Palacios said. “After being on campus for a couple of days, I loved the campus; the people were really nice, and I enjoyed the area. I knew even if baseball wasn’t in the picture, I would still enjoy coming to Towson.”
In his two seasons under Gottlieb, Palacios did more than enjoy his college experience. He set a freshman school record with 74 hits and stole a school-record 32 bases during his freshman campaign. His sophomore year was equally as impressive – leading Towson in hits (72), runs scored (43) and stolen bases (19).
His performance, though, didn’t equate to wins for the Tigers. In Palacios’ two seasons with Gottlieb at the helm, Towson was nearly 30 games under .500 at 40-69. After 30 seasons as Towson’s head coach, Gottlieb was fired last year.
Connecting with Tyner — twice
So often when a coach leaves a school, the players he recruited will leave, too. Before Palacios considered transferring, Towson announced the hiring of former University of Richmond head coach Matt Tyner. The hiring of Tyner silenced Palacios’ doubts.
“Coach Tyner actually recruited me out of high school at Richmond, so we had that connection there,” Palacios said. “I really wanted to go (to Richmond), but it didn’t pan out. Then I heard Coach Tyner was coming (to Towson). Right after I heard, I called him up. I was really excited, because I already knew him as a person and as a coach, so that was pretty awesome.”
Palacios came close to playing for the Spiders, but his insistence on playing shortstop kept him away from Richmond.
“A couple years ago I was doing some recruiting, and I had the opportunity to watch and evaluate Richie,” Tyner said. “At the time he was like, ‘You know I’d like to come play for you.’ And I was like, ‘I’d love that too, but I’m not sure you can beat out my shortstop,’ – who ended up being a 17th round draft pick for the Washington Nationals. But Richie insisted on playing short, and he went to Towson, and I went back to Richmond. As luck would have it, here we are again with a chance to reunite, if you will.”
After Palacios’ phone call welcoming Tyner to Towson, the pair immediately got to work. Tyner was quick to point out Palacios’ weaknesses. According to Tyner, Palacios struck out too much and was “pull happy.” Because of his success under Gottlieb, Palacios could have easily ignored Tyner’s criticism. Instead, he chose to embrace it.
Tyner told Palacios that in order to elevate his draft position, the left-handed hitter needed to focus on driving the ball up the middle.
“In our first three scrimmages, (Palacios) was 0-for-9,” Tyner said. “At that point in time, anyone would’ve said, ‘I’m out. I’m going back to what makes me Richie.’ But Richie hung in there. The next two hits that he got were opposite field home runs.”
Preparing for a June draft
It’s no secret who scouts are coming to see when Towson (2-8 overall, 0-0 conference) plays.
Palacios, who turns 21 in May, is expected to be the first Towson University player to be drafted since catcher Brady Policelli was selected in the 13th round in 2016 by the Detroit Tigers. The last to make the majors from Towson was outfielder Casper Wells, a 14th-rounder in 2005 who spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues with five clubs.
At this point, Palacios projects to be selected in the Top 10 rounds, perhaps as high as the fifth or sixth. That would be an exceptional accomplishment for a school that has had only two players taken in the Top Five rounds in program history.
Palacios’ elite speed sets him apart, but there is a question as to whether he will stay at shortstop in the pros or be moved to center field or second base. Regardless, he’ll get a chance to play pro.
“If we were playing football, he would be the guy you’re saying, ‘That kid is gonna play on Sunday,’” Tyner said.
Although the spotlight is on him, Palacios remains level-headed. He is viewed as a leader, and was elected as a team captain by his peers.
“I want to win a CAA Championship,” Palacios said. “I’ll let the other stuff take care of itself.”
Six games into his junior season, Palacios is off to another hot start. He’s batting .440 with 11 RBIs and three home runs.
He’s blazing along the path that the Palacios men have paved before him.
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
Noah Song, RHP, U.S. Naval Academy
Song was named as a Louisville Slugger Player of the Week following his 16-strikeout performance against the U.S. Air Force Academy. The right-handed hurler followed up that impressive showing by throwing a complete-game shutout against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Greg Schneider, RHP, Frostburg State University
Senior/Jefferson Hills, Pa.
Schneider picked up his third win of the season against Stevenson University. Frostburg’s all-time leader in strikeouts lowered his ERA to 0.41 and fanned another 15 batters in a complete game shutout over the Mustangs. With Schneider on the hill, the Bobcats have outscored their opponents 24-1 this season.
Cam Esposito, OF, Hood College
Esposito was named MAC Commonwealth Player of the Week. He batted .545 and slugged .727 with five RBIs, five runs scored, two doubles and was 3-for-3 in stealing bases. Esposito has helped the Blazers start the season with seven straight wins. Hood is off to its best start in program history.
The Orioles announced a partnership with Navy that will bring the Midshipmen to Camden Yards. Navy will host a doubleheader against the United States Military Academy (Army) on March 25. The first game slated for 11 a.m. will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Tickets for the doubleheader are $10, and all proceeds will go to the Fisher House Foundation and the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The final three games of the 2018 Army-Navy series will be on the weekend of April 20-21. The April 20 game will be hosted by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. … After a 2-4 start, the University of Maryland (7-4) has won five straight. The Terps swept three games in the Coastal Carolina Tournament against Radford University, Coastal Carolina University and Ball State University. … Johns Hopkins University catcher Alex Darwiche was named Centennial Conference Player of the Week. Darwiche became just the fourth player in Hopkins history and the 12th in Centennial Conference history to hit three home runs in a game. The senior launched three balls out of Babb Field in the Jays’ 19-5 win over Gwynedd Mercy University. … Towson rallied from five runs down to secure its first home win of the season against University at Albany. Sophomore Bo Plagge delivered a walk-off single to left center to give the Tigers an 8-7 victory. … University of Maryland Eastern Shore pitchers Evan Bertone and Caleb Walston set career highs for strikeouts in a game during a doubleheader against Lafayette College. Bertone struck out seven and Walston fanned five.
Matchup to watch
Last year, Johns Hopkins and Salisbury University went into the Division 3 NCAA Regional Tournament as top seeds from their respective areas. Neither advanced to the Division 3 College World Series. On Monday, the Blue Jays travel to Salisbury for a clash between two of Maryland’s best baseball programs.