It’s not often that a Division III college baseball player gets the chance to play at the professional level. Former Salem State baseball star Richie Fecteau knows that, but he doesn’t let it get in his way of climbing the ranks in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system.
Fecteau, a third baseman who graduated with an exercise science degree in 2016, was drafted by the Angels in the 39th round of that year’s MLB Draft.
He recalls the moment he received the news of his selection from a Los Angeles scout as a “dream come true.”
“One of the scouts called me and said, ‘we’re going to select you in the next round'” Fecteau, a Newburyport native, said. “It was one of the greatest days of my life. My dream came true that day. It was pretty awesome.”
During his senior season at Salem State, Fecteau, who co-captained the Vikings alongside Peabody native Mike Davis, helped lead Salem State to a MASCAC Tournament crown and an appearance in the New England Regional round of NCAA Division III Tournament. Fecteau compiled a .393 batting average, six home runs, 13 doubles and 29 RBI as a senior.
He began his professional career with the Arizona League Angels in 2016 and is currently playing at the advanced Single-A level with the Inland Empire (CA) 66ers of the California League. In 68 games with Inland Empire this season, Fecteau has posted a .249 batting average with four home runs and 32 RBI. He carries a .290 on base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage.
“It’s been great,” Fecteau, 23, said of his tenure in the minor leagues. “I’m very happy they were able to give me the opportunity to keep playing. I’m learning every day. The people are fantastic. I’m just thankful they’re allowing me and giving the the opportunity. It’s fantastic.”
Fecteau’s bat has heated up as of late. The Salem State product and former North Shore Navigator has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, going 11-for-38 at the plate with 12 RBI and five runs scored during that stretch.
He admits he struggled with finding the right pitches to swing at in the early going of the season, but he has made adjustments since. And those adjustments are paying dividends.
“I know earlier in the season I was struggling with seeing good pitches to hit,” Fecteau said. “I talked to my hitting coach (Brian Betancourth). I’ve started to look for pitches to hit up in the zone. Lately it’s been working. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing and it’s been working the whole second half (of the season).
Fecteau added, “That’s been my biggest focus for the past month or so, getting a good pitch to hit and not swinging at a bad pitch early in the count.”
Fecteau has also found himself catching up to the pace of play on the professional diamond.
“Everything moves,” Fecteau said. “When you’re practicing it’s a little slower. You try to practice being under control as much as you can. The game moves a lot faster, the guys throw harder. Other than that it’s just baseball.”
Although Fecteau’s far from home, almost 3,000 miles away, he’s making the most of life on the West Coast. Prior to joining the Angels’ organization, Fecteau had never traveled that far West.
Fecteau said he took some time getting used to the steamy temperatures in California but he enjoys seeing different parts of the country through baseball.
“That’s been awesome. I’ve never been to the West Coast ever in my life,” Fecteau said. “It’s my first time out here. I like it a lot out here. It’s always hot though, it’s always like 100 degrees. It’s a completely different world out here. It’s pretty cool to travel around the country and play baseball. I’m traveling to parts of the country that if I didn’t play baseball I wouldn’t be able to see. It’s a pretty cool experience.”
As he makes a name for himself in the Angels’ farm system, Fecteau doesn’t forget his Salem State roots.
“I always worked extra hard,” Fecteau said. “This is something I always wanted to do. In college, I’d go to the cages after games and keep hitting. It’s very rare that someone gets to play professional baseball from a Division III school in general. I knew that and went in and played as hard as I could. Whatever happened, happened. I’m extremely proud to be able to represent Salem State in professional baseball.”