The spontaneous pitcher had an instant impact on sophomore roomates Mike Click and Ryan Thomas.
“He was a great kid. He came in straight off the beach, long hair, laid back lifestyle,” Thomas said.
Click added, “he was a great kid to know.”
Straight from the New Jersey beaches, the Brigantine-native was always in high spirits. Sophomore Kyle Monohan remembers playing on the Jaguars when they were 12 and on various AAU teams.
“He was always the life of the team,” Monohan said. “He’d always joke around and bring the mood up.”
When the Owls hit the field this season though, they will do so without number three. The would-be sophomore passed away on August 8, 2007 after a fatal swimming accident while playing for the St. Cloud River Bats in Minnesota. Gargel was 19.
In honor of his life, River Bats’ teammates hung his jersey in the dugout en route to a Northwoods League crown. After the final out, the team huddled behind second base where they called the Gargel family.
Temple also honored Gargel during the Cherry and White Fall World Series in October when the team had his younger brother, Harrison, throw out the first pitch before the second game.
This season, while Gargel won’t physically be with the Owls, his presence will remain on the field. The team is wearing hats and wristbands with Gargel’s number and a ‘3’ will be etched onto Skip Wilson Field in Ambler.
Despite the physical memory, nothing could match how Gargel personally touched his teammates-turned-family.
“It was like I knew him my whole life, I felt shocked,” Thomas said. “A kid like that growing up around water his whole life … it was heartbreaking. We’ll keep him in our hearts.”
Teammates and coaches agree that Gargel left nothing back when he took the mound in 20 games for the Owls last season.
Sophomore Matt Blackburn said Gargel would want nothing less from this year’s team.
“You go out there and play how he’d want us to play … just win,” Blackburn said.
Although, then-freshman Rob Chamra didn’t quite understand Gargel’s passion for everything from hardcore music to the sounds of country star Tim McGraw, the loss of a friend was almost more than he could bear.
“It was bad, it was tragic and I didn’t know what to do,” the fellow pitcher said. “To honor him I’m going to take a second and approach [the game] like he did.”
Coach Rob Valli heard of the news, but its immediate details were vague.
“It was a shock,” Valli said. “Just trying to gather the information, share it with his friends and teammates, just trying to be someone the baseball community could lean on.”
“Richie’s someone I’ll always remember,” Valli said. “We’re fortunate we had a chance to know him.”
Matthew Nadu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.