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Stephenson visits his old stomping grounds

Boonsboro grad and former big-league pitcher conducts a baseball clinic at South High

May 13, 2010|By TIM KOELBLE
  • Garrett Stephenson
File photo,

HAGERSTOWN -- Garrett Stephenson pitched for seven seasons in the major leagues.

Now, at age 38 and out of the game since 2003, the Boonsboro High School graduate finds it tough to take a peek in on the game as it is today.

"It just kills me, it's hard to watch baseball," said Stephenson, who had a major league career record of 39-39. "Sometimes when I do watch and see what's out there, I think, 'I could still do better.'"

Stephenson was at South Hagerstown High School on Wednesday to conduct a two-day youth baseball clinic. It is his first time back to the area since he pitched in the minors with the Hagerstown Suns after he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1992.

He currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and three sons -- Riley, 16, Teagan, 12, and Britten, 8. He said he is looking into the possibility of returning to the area.

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He was born in Takoma Park, Md., and began high school at Linganore before transferring to Boonsboro during the middle of his junior year.

"We're taking a look at what's in the area," said Stephenson, a real estate developer.

Stephenson has maintained friendships with South baseball coach Ralph Stottlemyer, Doug Stottlemyer (Ralph's brother) and Doug Stottlemyer Jr., who played with Stephenson as a youngster. Stephenson also spent a few moments Wednesday with his former high school coach, Fred Krieger.

"He had a live, loose arm and an amazing amount of confidence," said Krieger. "He knew what he could be and wanted to be."

Stephenson first pitched in the majors for Baltimore, making three appearances in 1996.

"My very first batter I faced was Cleveland's Albert Belle, and I plunked him in the hip with a pitch," said Stephenson.

He was sent to Philadelphia in August 1996 and won eight games in 1997 with the Phillies. He was traded in November 1998 to St. Louis, where he made his mark. He went 16-9 in 2000 for the Cardinals, who reached the playoffs that year. But that proved to be the beginning of the end for the 6-foot-5 right-hander.

During the division series against Atlanta, Stephenson threw a curveball to Andruw Jones and his elbow was in distress.

"My elbow popped and the ligament was torn in half," said Stephenson, who then missed the 2001 season following Tommy John surgery.

He attributed the elbow injury to an ankle injury in 1998 when he was spiked by Willie McGee as he covered first base, causing him to alter his pitching delivery.

He credited an old teammate from 1991, when he was pitching for the Hagerstown Braves, for instilling important words into his head.

"Randy (Bull) Jamison was my catcher, and he made sure I would never, ever shake him off," said Stephenson. "I went on and was like 10-1 with a sub-1.00 ERA."

Several of his former teammates and managers still dot major league rosters. In Philadelphia, he was managed by Terry Francona and played with Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu. Under Tony LaRussa in St. Louis, he played with Edgar Renteria, Placido Polanco, J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel.

He also played with Mark McGwire in St. Louis.

"(McGwire) was an awesome person that just went about his own business," said Stephenson. "He just wasn't a loud team leader, just did his business."

Nowadays, Stephenson's focus is on doing camps and clinics in Idaho, where he said football is clearly the No. 1 sport.

"As a dad, the most important thing to tell your kid, and I tell mine, is that when you make a choice, whether it's baseball, chess, soccer or band, you do it 100 percent to the end, and you as a parent back your kid 100 percent," said Stephenson.

Stephenson's oldest son, Riley, is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound sophomore who loves baseball and basketball. He said Teagan is into basketball and golf and has his handicap down to 10. Britten, he said, is a basketball kid.

Stephenson also fared well on the basketball court in 1989-90 when the Warriors went 19-5.

"We were three points shy of the state semis," he said.

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