June 24, 2002
Former Notre Dame centerfielder and consensus first-team All-American Steve Stanley (Upper Arlington, Ohio) is poised to begin his professional career with one of the Oakland Athletics’ two high-A teams, the Modesto (Calif.) A’s, after concluding his college career last week at the College World Series.
Stanley – who originally was slated to play with the short-season single-A Vancouver A’s – instead was shifted to higher-level Modesto, where he is expected to be the starting centerfielder on Tuesday night in a California League game versus the Stockton Ports.
“It’s a complete surprise for me to be in Modesto right now but I’m very excited and feel fortunate to get this chance to play,” said Stanley, who became a fixture in the Notre Dame, BIG EAST Conference and NCAA record books during his four seasons with the Irish.
“I want to represent Notre Dame baseball to the highest degree and I know that pro ball will be a lot different. I’m just trying to adjust right now and make as smooth of a transition as possible.
“This is a goal that I’ve been battling to reach all my life and the hectic nature of the past few days is really not an inconvenience because it’s actually what I expected would happen as our season at Notre Dame had such a great finish in Omaha. I’m just going to approach every game like I always have, going out and playing the best I possibly can with no regrets.
“The great thing about my situation now is that I’m actually getting paid to play the game I love so much.”
A whirlwind five-day stretch took Stanley from the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., to Chicago’s Midway Airport and on to Notre Dame, before returning to his hometown (just outside Columbus) and then flying to Modesto on Saturday morning.
That emotional span of some 84 hours included the following:
* Notre Dame’s season-ending 5-3 loss to Stanford on Tuesday night at the CWS (Stanley later was named to the all-CWS team, one of just two players named to the team who did not play for one of the final four teams).
* The postgame press conference in which Stanley – easily one of the most popular players at the CWS — predicted many great things still to come for the ND baseball program.
* Arrival back at Notre Dame on Wednesday night, followed by Thursday’s annual end-of-the-year meeting at which the senior class was honored and the Irish players said their goodbyes before scattering to all corners of the country.
* A call from the Oakland A’s that indicated the club wanted to sign Stanley to a contract on Friday night in Columbus – necessitating a quick packing job by Steve, his wife Brooke and Steve’s parents Mike and Sharilyn (who had driven back to South Bend on the short notice).
* The official contract signing on Friday night, as Stanley’s original plans to head for Vancouver were shifted down the coast to the higher-level club in Modesto.
* A short rest beginning at 2:00 a.m. Saturday, followed by a 9:00 a.m. flight to Modesto (where he checked into the aptly-titled Vagabond Inn before meeting with his new team on Sunday, with Brooke slated to arrive on Monday).
Despite growing up in Ohio and playing most of his collegiate games in the Midwest and Northeast, Stanley does have some familiarity with his new surroundings. He spent 10 days in the area during Notre Dame’s 2001 Spring Break trip that included a pair of games in Stockton, followed by participation in Fresno State’s Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic (which was won by the Irish). The games in Stockton, versus Eastern Michigan and host UOP, were played at Herbert Field, home of the Stockton Ports.
Stanley was scheduled for his mandatory physical exam on Monday and also has taken care of some unforeseen logistics, such as procuring a pair of white shoes (the signature footwear of the A’s organization). Oakland’s unique minor-league system includes two high-A clubs – the Modesto A’s and the Visalia Oaks – which both play in the California League’s northern division (as do the Bakersfield Blaze, the San Jose Giants and the Stockton Ports). The league’s south division includes the High Desert Mavericks, the Lake Elsinore Storm, the Lancaster JetHawks, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the San Bernardino Stampede.
Fans wishing to follow Stanley’s season with the Modesto A’s can do so at the following websites:
Check back to www.und.com in coming weeks for updates on Notre Dame’s current and former players during their summer seasons.