Just over a week ago the San Diego Padres visited the Cincinnati Reds for a three game set. This brought North Star native and Versailles/Dayton graduate Craig Stammen back to his home area which delivered a number of Stammen followers to Great American Ballpark.
Craig is completing his third season as a valued pitcher and mentor in the Padres bullpen. Now 35, he’s having a solid year consistent with “the back of his baseball card” including a career launch with the Washington Nationals that featured playoff appearances and a very successful conversion to a relief role. As seemingly per usual, just a few poor outings have turned a fine season into a good one. This includes June 9 when he yielded four consecutive homers. In just seven pitches he gave up more homers than in his entire 2018 campaign (3).
“That would have been a good time to crawl into a hole and hide,” he said when facing the media immediately after the implosion, “but that’s not an option. I’ve got to get ready for next time.”
He’s affectionately called “Dad” by his younger bullpen mates. His wife and young son made many earlier road trips but not this one since the birth of a daughter is slated for early October. “They’re not traveling well right now,” he mused a week before the Ohio journey.
I arranged a press pass for the Cincy series and entered the visitors clubhouse prior to the first game. Even though I’ve been in the sports media business for 44 years I still get excited for moments like this. I walked past the office of manager Andy Green who was at his desk reviewing notes. Then it was around the corner and into the players locker area where a handful of Padres were killing time. Fortunately one of them was #34 Craig Stammen and we chatted briefly.
Craig’s two year contract is about to end and he’ll become a free agent. San Diego values his veteran presence and will likely pursue him once again but perhaps for a single year. The Cincinnati Reds showed interest before 2018 and could come calling again. Despite genuinely liking the San Diego area, Stammen has made no secret over the years that he’d like to pitch for the Reds “at some point.” With his age advancing and family expanding, 2020 might be the time especially since the Reds just cut ties with two veteran righty relievers. Great American Ballpark is just over 100 miles from his home. Route 127 is a straight shot from the Queen City to North Star.
Craig threw three scoreless innings against the Reds in two appearances on this visit and looked good doing it. Maybe we were seeing an audition for next season.
This past weekend was termed a “Players Weekend” by Major League Baseball complete with nicknames on the back of unique uniforms. Stammen’s annually says “Trig.” Something to do with math? “No,” he responded. “Somewhere along the way I was nicknamed ‘Trigger’ and it stuck but that name is not politically correct so it’s shortened to ‘Trig.’”
With multiple military installations, the San Diego area is an excellent place for him to continue his support of our military personnel. Just Google “Craig Stammen military” and you’ll find the impressive results. He’s major league in many ways.
Hoying in Korea
I continue to check mykbostats.com on a daily basis to follow Fort Loramie outfielder Jared Hoying in his second season with Hanwha of the Korean Baseball Organization. A year ago the former Texas Ranger was a key cog on a playoff team. This year has seen much team adversity while Hoying has put up good numbers that are below his pace of 2018. Hanwha is at the bottom of the 2019 KBO standings while winning just over a third of its games.
I asked him if he could have been traded to a contender at mid-season. “Just like in the states that does happen,” said the father of two. “The team and our fans like me, and my merchandise continues to be popular which helped keep me where I am.” When the season ends around Labor Day, Jared should be hitting in the .290 range with 20+ homers.
By the way, don’t look for Hanwha on a map of South Korea. KBO teams take the name of their sponsor/owner rather than their base city. Hanwha is a huge diversified conglomerate whose lines include dynamite and life insurance. Daejeon, a city approaching two million residents, is the team’s home with a 13,000 seat ballpark.
Hoying is playing solid but not spectacular baseball which likely means he returns to the steady guaranteed money and fan adoration in Korea. He told a Fort Loramie fund raiser last January that he can envision playing several more years overseas before retiring. Though his contract expires, his KBO rights will still be held by Hanwha. He could also head to Japan or back to the United States. His Cincinnati based agent will exhaust all possibilities.
Next week: One final visit with Marty in the Reds radio booth.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross is a local sports historian and Past President of the Shelby County Historical Society.