WORCESTER — Tade Riordan is spending this soggy summer in a school of sorts.
The Whitinsville resident, who graduated from Blackstone Valley Tech in May, is one of nine players on the Worcester Bravehearts’ 40-man roster who will begin their freshman year of college this fall. Seven of them, Riordan included, will play Division 1 baseball.
To that end, Riordan is getting an advance — and advanced — tutorial in what awaits him athletically at the next level from his teammates, coaches and opponents.
“It’s definitely been a change to come up and play with the older guys,” the conscientious and confident 18-year-old recently said following pregame warmups at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, “but I’ve found myself being pretty comfortable with it.
“I’ve learned a lot from the older guys on my own team and started to build some new routines and habits in that aspect. Just trying to get better. It’s fun; a great experience.”
Bravehearts manager Alex Dion, who is in his fifth season guiding the Futures League entry, seconded the motion.
The educational experience extends from warmups and games to the locker room and bus rides during a four-month stretch in which the Bravehearts are scheduled to play 64 games over the course of 75 days.
“I think it’s good for anyone in his situation where he’s playing high school ball and then he’s immediately coming into a situation where he’s surrounded with guys who have been on campus already,” Dion said. “So regardless of the on-field stuff, it’s a good experience for the kid to prepare him for the fall.”
Riordan was a three-year starter on the mound and in center field — it likely would have been four years if COVID hadn’t wiped out the 2020 season — at Valley Tech, where he also played hockey as a freshman and sophomore and basketball as a senior.
The 6-foot-5, 185-pound right-hander has transitioned nicely from the Beavers to the Bravehearts, benefiting immensely from welcoming and helpful teammates like veteran pitcher Axel Johnson of Grafton.
Riordan has been utilized out of the bullpen — a first for him — allowing eight hits, four walks and an unearned run while recording four strikeouts over six appearances spanning seven innings. His 1.28 earned run average leads the team among active players.
Every pitch is a challenge, but it’s one he embraces.
“I mean, the atmosphere is tough,” Riordan said citing an appearance he made at powerhouse Vermont before a crowd of 2,200 in late June. “Everyone is so good, everyone is so skilled, everyone is here for a reason.
“But I’m also good for a reason, and I came here to compete because I want to compete, and that’s what I love to do is compete. So anytime I get on the mound, I’m just there to get outs and help us win.”
Riordan’s repertoire includes four- and two-seam fastballs that currently top out in the mid-80s, a curveball and his out pitch, a slider. He has incorporated a changeup into the mix this summer thanks to rising sophomore Champ Davis, a Georgia native who attends Wofford College in South Carolina.
His confidence and composure have impressed Dion, assistant Matt Geoffrion and pitching coach Greg Stagani to the point where they’ve talked about utilizing Riordan more.
“He’s gotten better and better as the summer has gone on,” Dion said, later adding, “He’s a kid I would probably look to bring back next summer in a starting role. So he’s been a pleasure to have.”
Riordan, who posted a 3.8 grade point average at Valley Tech while enrolled in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration program, will continue his academic and athletic careers at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
As one would expect of a standout student, he did his homework during his college search. That included speaking with former Evolution and soon-to-be NJIT teammates Andrew Eppinger of Grafton and Croix Jenkins of Barre.
“I reached out to them to talk about the program, the environment in the locker room and what to expect,” said Riordan, who will major in business finance with an eye toward becoming a financial advisor.
“They said all the right things, and I talked to the coaches, and they said all the right things. It just worked out, and I couldn’t have picked a better spot to land.”
—Contact Rich Garven at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RichGarvenTG.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Former Valley Tech star Tade Riordan has excelled for Worcester Bravehearts