Paul Risso was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January 1973, but the then-20-year-old pitcher from the College of San Mateo (Calif.) did not get the opportunity to play professionally.
Shortly after he was drafted, Risso pitched four games in two days for San Mateo. At the end of the fourth game he started to experience severe pain in his throwing shoulder.
“It felt like someone took an ice pick to my shoulder,” Risso said.
He thought the pain would go away if he took some time off. It didn’t, and his professional career took a long detour.
“I took about a week off to see if it would get any better,” Risso said. “It hurt so much that I could barely reach home plate.”
Forty years after the Pirates drafted him in the sixth round, the 60-year-old will get the opportunity to pitch one inning for the Raton Osos on Wednesday when they travel to Santa Fe to play the second half of a four-game Pecos League series against the Fuego.
Risso, who lives in Los Lunas, tried to get on the roster of the St. Paul (Minn.) Saints, an American Association club, last month. He didn’t make the team, but he did grab the attention of the national media. He was featured on the Today Show earlier this month. There is no doubt his age makes him a human-interest story, but Risso wants to be known for what he can do on the mound.
“When I came to these tryouts, I just wanted to be looked at as another baseball player,” Risso said. “Bottom line, it’s about baseball.”
Seven years ago, Risso started playing for the Albuquerque Men’s Senior Baseball league. It was the first time he played baseball since the Pirates decided to pass on him in the spring of 1973. He was rusty, but after a while it all started coming back to him.
“It’s a lot like riding a bike,” Risso said. “Your body still remembers it.”
As for the shoulder injury, it was like it never happened.
“People always ask me how my shoulder got better, and I always say the same thing: ‘I don’t know,’ ” Risso said. “I started throwing again and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt.”
Risso consistently throws in the high 70s and low 80s, which he says is OK for a man his age. He added that he is a better pitcher now than he was in college.
“I’ve actually become more of a pitcher, whereas I used to just be a thrower,” Risso said. “The Pirates drafted me because of my fastball.”
Risso will be the first reliever for the Osos in Wednesday’s game. It could be his only inning as the Osos only signed him to a one-day contract. Regardless, Risso is still happy that he gets to pitch again.
“I feel really fortunate that I get to play baseball again,” Risso said. “I never thought that I would have to opportunity to play again. It feels good because baseball was a huge part of my life growing up.”
Baseball was a part of Risso’s life growing up because his father, Albert, was also a professional baseball player.
“I always wanted to be just like my dad,” Risso said.
Regardless of how his inning goes Wednesday, Risso said he isn’t going to stop playing the game that so many don’t at his age.
“I’m going to continue to play baseball,” Risso said. “One inning isn’t going to be an indicator of how you can do.”