Temple pitcher Richie Gargel passed away Wednesday, Aug. 15, following a swimming pool accident earlier in the week.
The 6-foot, 145 pound pitcher from Brigantine, N.J. was 19.
After a steadily improving freshman season for the Owls, in which he struck out 26 batters in 30.2 innings, Gargel was pitching for the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwood Summer League. He was 1-0 with a 5.40 earned run average and four strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched.
But Gargel brought more to the table than just his left arm. He also brought a fun-loving personality, a great sense of humor and a kind heart.
“Ritchie was a great, great guy,” fellow pitcher Rob Chamra said. “From the first time I met him, I knew we would get [along] well. He want[ed] to have fun, but at the times when you [had] to be serious, like on the field or for class, he was serious.”
Infielder Matt Heltz echoed his teammate’s thoughts. “Ritchie was always a fun guy,” he said. “When things were going bad, he always had a bright smile on his face. He was a great friend. He would always help you out, whether in work or in baseball.”
Pitcher Ryan Thomas, who was Gargel’s roommate last year, had an especially close relationship to Gargel. He even visited his home in Brigantine, as the two were close friends both on and off the field.
“He was always upbeat, always smiling, never mad about anything, always joking around,” Thomas said. “He could have the worst game of his life and he could still be joking around, figuring things he could do better, making fun of himself.”
The consistent smile Gargel had on his face always helped keep things positive when times were tough, especially considering the growing pains the inexperienced Owls went through last season.
“[Ritchie] was the guy that lightened things up for you when times were down or things weren’t going too well,” Chamra said.
“He always liked playing games – two-ball and speed-ball. He loved playing those games, so that brought together some bonding before games with everyone.”
“[Ritchie] was always joking, even though all of them might not be that good,” Heltz said. “But we all loved him for it. He got along with everybody, he was friends with everybody on the team.”
Gargel had plans for his post-collegiate career, as he wanted to stay connected to baseball either as a player or as a coach. According to Chamra, he already had a knack for teaching others about the game.
“He’s real good with kids,” Chamra said. “I’ve seen him with his brothers and sisters after our games. [Ritchie] was always real nice and respectful to them, and they looked up to him a lot.”
However, through all the joking and clowning around, Gargel’s teammates said was a kid with strong character and the determination to succeed both on the field and in the classroom.
“He’s just a great, great teammate and great person to be around,” Thomas said.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.