Steve Stanley is having an outstanding season in the A's organization. He is currently in AA baseball with the Midland Rockhounds based out of Midland, TX. He's leading his team in hits with 80. He's hitting .299 with an on-base percentage of around .380. He also has hit four doubles and two triples and has seven stolen bases.
Stanley was named to the All-Star team as a first-year player in AA. "We played it about a week or two ago during the All-Star break," said Stanley. "I didn't play particularly well, I was 0-for-3 but I sure had a great time and obviously this being my first year in AA I was very fortunate to make it."
Life in AA baseball can be grueling but Stanley is just happy to be able to chase his dream. "Its fun," said Stanley of life on the road. "My roommate, Steve Jackson, is a great person. Usually you spend a lot of time with your roommate so depending on how your roommate is, it could be good or bad. It's been great so far. There's a lot of time spent on the bus traveling from city to city. I've had to get used to that."
The typical day for a minor-leaguer is structured. "A typical day is you get up at about 10 AM to go to the gym. You have lunch at noon and you go to the park at 3 PM. You have BP (batting practice) at about 4:30 PM and the game usually starts at around 7 PM. The game gets over at 10 PM so you are usually out of there by 11 PM. By the time you grab something to eat; you're usually not in bed until 1 AM. Then you start the routine all over again the next day."
Those are the good days for Stanley. The travel days are the most grueling. "We're in Tulsa right now. When we finish the last game we'll be going to Wichita. It will probably be around midnight before we get on the bus to travel to Wichita. We'll probably get there around 3 AM and have to get up and start the routine all over again."
Stanley does it all because of the dream. "Obviously I'm still young in my career. To be in AA this early is a great thing. I feel like if I can continue to play well, I'm going to have a shot. One of the great things about the dream is that you push yourself harder each day. We'll be sitting in the clubhouse watching the big-leaguers on the TV thinking ‘man, someday hopefully I'm there.' That makes you go out and work that much harder and do whatever it takes to get better. I'm going to go that extra mile to try to make that dream come true."
Stanley says the jump from college to the minors hasn't been easy and the pitching is pretty nasty. "The biggest difference in pitching is that you are seeing a number one pitcher in college every night. Also, the talent pool for left-handers is a lot better because most of the good left-handers go straight into the professional ranks because there is such a premium on left-handed pitching. In college you don't get to see as good of left-handed pitching as pro baseball so that is a big jump."
Stanley had a great career at Notre Dame. He was a consensus first team All-American in 2002. He was voted USA Today second team and the Baseball America's first team All-American in 2001 and was voted BIG EAST player of the year in 2001 and 2002 before being drafted in the 2nd round by the Oakland A's.
Stanley remembers his days at Notre Dame fondly. "The four years I spent at Notre Dame were definitely the four best years in my baseball career. The catalyst or one of the biggest reasons was Coach Mainieri because of the relationship we had. He's played a huge part and a huge role in my maturity not only as a player but as a person. He's helped me get to the point where I am right now which is to be confident in my abilities but to continue to try to get better every day and that will help me get to the next level. Some of my best experiences that I had at Notre Dame weren't even on the field. They were off the field with my teammates. We created such a close bond and those four years just flew by. We had a really special group of guys. Obviously being able to win 40 games each year and to make it to the regionals each year was great. To cap it off in my senior year we make it to the College World Series, it was like a storybook ending for me."
Stanley believes that his time at Notre Dame prepared him for what he would see in professional baseball. He credits Mainieri for helping him get to where he is and he thinks that is why he is having success in the minors. "I would recommend anybody to go to college as a high school kid. I don't think anyone is ready unless you are a guy who is a first-rounder who is getting a lot of money--somebody that they have time to mature because you are an investment. If you're not, they are going to let you learn on your own. The problem is that as an 18-year old kid, you need somebody to help you and give you individual attention. That is exactly what college does, especially Notre Dame Baseball where Coach Mainieri and Coach O'Connor do such a great job of maturing their players. If they do have talent to play at the professional level, they will pull that out of them and make them the best players they can be."
Stanley is also a family man. He's married and he and his bride are expecting their first child--a girl--as his wife is eight months pregnant. He says his wife has been his biggest fan and the experience has been great for both of them. "I try to separate it as much as I can," said Stanley of his baseball career and his family. "My family means more to me than baseball. I think she would tell you that she has really enjoyed it. It's allowed her to experience new towns and new things and we've been able to do it together wherever we've been. Right now this is my job and I think she's done a great job of accepting it and really enjoying it. Also, she is eight months pregnant with our first child so we've had that on our minds. My family is number one in my life as well as my faith. It's so important to separate things and when I call her at night we maybe talk about the game for five minutes and the rest of the time it's about other things."
Stanley still keeps an eye on the Irish and his old teammates even though he is busy with his own career. "I'm always checking in to see what is going on. I wish they would've made it back but they will be there again soon, I'm sure of that. I do keep in touch with the guys, I check out Baseball America all the time to see how they are doing and their stats. Sometimes we don't get the chance to talk as much as we'd like because I know they are pretty busy but we talk as much as we can."
To speak to Steve Stanley is like speaking to an old friend and I've never spoken to him before, nor did he know who I was before speaking to me. I assume he called back because he loves Notre Dame, Notre Dame Baseball and his old coach. Maybe it was just an opportunity to talk about Notre Dame Baseball again, I don't know but he did call back and I think that says a lot about what kind of guy Steve Stanley is. I've interviewed a lot of people in my time as a sports journalist and I can't remember enjoying an interview more than I enjoyed this one. My only regret is that I wasn't able to watch him play his career at Notre Dame. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to follow him in the big leagues and can be his second biggest fan.