Stanley Still Follows Florida

Mike Stanley took multiple things from his time at Florida. Some helped him achieve a successful big league career, and others have affected him while coaching his son's teams growing up. Maturing on and off the field is part of the sales pitch from college coaches to high school players, and Stanley used his time in Gainesville to help him experience a successful career in the pros.

Stanley played for three coaches in his Florida career. It started with Jay Bergmann as the head coach of Florida before Stanley played under Jack Rhine for two seasons. Then came Joe Arnold, who is still viewed as one of the best coaches in program history. Arnold eventually took the Gators to their first two College World Series appearances.

Each of the three coaches taught Stanley something different. Arnold pressed into the team's mind that they should run out every ball, whether it was a line drive hit right at an infielder or a fly out. It's something that stuck with Stanley, and he now implements it while coaching his son, Tanner, and the rest of his team.

"It didn't matter where we hit it either," Stanley said. "He was always on us to run all the way to first."

In Stanley's career, the Gators won the SEC Tournament championship in 1982 and 1984. He made the All-Tournament team in those two years and 1985. Stanley struggled to pick out the most memorable moment of his career, but he said the tournament championships would most likely be the ones.

His name is littered through the Florida record book. Stanley ranks tenth in career games played, ninth in career batting average (.350), seventh in hits (255), ninth in RBI (153), second in walks (175) and second in on-base percentage (.479).

His 15-year Major League career came to an end in 2000. Stanley ended with one All-Star appearance (1995) and a Silver Slugger Award (1993). He also caught Nolan Ryan's seventh and final no-hitter.

Since the end of his career, Stanley has kept up with Florida baseball. The memories of watching the Gators lose to South Carolina in the College World Series championship series this year have stuck with him.

"I was just as nervous as everyone watching the championship series," Stanley said. "Obviously, I wanted them to win, but they return a good team next year, too."

Stanley wasn't surprised that his alma mater returned to the elite programs in college baseball because of the hiring of Kevin O'Sullivan four years ago. As Stanley's son enters his senior year, he heard a lot about O'Sullivan while traveling to play in tournaments across the state.

The most impressive part was that the glowing reports came from scouts. They saw how hard O'Sullivan worked on the recruiting trail, leading them to believe without much doubt that O'Sullivan would succeed at Florida.

"I was impressed before I even met him after I just asked some scouts about him," Stanley said. "They all talked about his work ethic, and you see it. Him or (Florida assistant coach) Craig Bell are everywhere at these tournaments."

Stanley's son, Tanner, is heading into his senior year at Lake Highland Prep. The recruiting process is still going on, as the family waits to gauge interest from college teams before making a decision. His son has also spent time playing for the Orlando Baseball Academy this summer in tournaments across the southeast.

Stanley coaches the team, and watching from the dugout can take its toll on any parent. It's no different for Stanley. The pressure of watching his son play feels more intense than any time Stanley ever took the field.

"It's a lot different," he said. "I can't do anything to control the situation. I can prepare him and make sure he's ready, but I can't control what happens on the field. That's what it's different. There were always nerves before I played a game, but they weren't bad because I was playing and controlled the outcome. Watching him isn't anything like that."

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