JOHN RICHTER loves baseball. The 16-year-old Meade High School junior plays with the guys in his Fort Meade neighborhood. He plays catch in the back yard with his father, John Sr. And for years, he played for youth league teams in Germany and the United States.
Now he's planning to play baseball throughout Europe this summer as a member of the Coast to Coast Amateur Baseball Stars team.
John, a shortstop and pitcher, was recently chosen for a spot on a 16- to 18-year-old team of athletes from around the nation that will represent the United States All Stars in a summer baseball tournament against teams in Germany, Belgium, France and England.
The Coast to Coast team members will not be able to practice together until they meet this summer. But John is already preparing. He's been lifting weights at the gym, visiting the batting cages with his father. At the same time, he has kept up his academic studies as an honor roll student. And he is a member of Meade High's ROTC program.
John was introduced to team baseball in Aberdeen, where his father was stationed with the Army. He played Little League games and dreamed of following Cal Ripken Jr. For eight years, the family lived in Germany while John Sr. was stationed there. During that time, John played baseball in the Youth Services Program, improving his skills and developing an ever-increasing love of the sport.
In August, the family returned to the United States and John entered Meade High School. Like other military families, the Richters' life has involved a lot of moving. Soon John will be moving once again, this time to Charles County, where he will enter yet another new school - and, he hopes, play baseball. Like any 16-year-old, he finds it difficult to leave the friends he has made in Fort Meade.
Yet he knows that the needs of the Army and his family make the move necessary.
"I respect that and understand that," he says. He plans to keep in touch with his friends in Anne Arundel County, just as he keeps in touch with the friends he made in Germany.
When John returns to the United States in the fall, he will continue to pursue his goals: He would like to play baseball in college, and he dreams of a professional baseball career. His other dream would be to join the Air Force - and perhaps play on an Air Force baseball team.
But first he needs to prepare for this summer's Coast to Coast baseball tournament. To help defray the cost of the program, he has been involved in fund-raising efforts such as carwashes and doing odd jobs.