Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Steve Stemle's Road to Major League Baseball

For as interesting as it is to see how a baseball player develops during their baseball career, discovering what vocation they steer towards after leaving the diamond can be downright fascinating. Although many former players continue on as scouts and coaches, there are others who spread their wings even wider, like former Kansas City Royals pitcher Steve Stemle.

A native of Indiana, the right-hander was a fifth-round draft selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 out of Western Kentucky University. He made an immediate splash in his professional debut, going 3-3 with a 1.83 ERA nine starts for New Jersey in the New York-Penn League.

Although he made steady progress through the minors, it took a little while for him to start posting numbers worthy of a highly-drafted prospect, culminating in his 12-6 mark and 3.88 ERA in 2002 while playing with the Cardinals’ Double and Triple-A affiliates.

In 2004, Stemle was converted to the bullpen where he found success pitching as a set-up man. He was granted free agency that off season and signed with the Royals. His 0.45 ERA in 14 Triple-A games convinced them to give the 28-year-old his first shot at the majors. He pitched three perfect innings in his major league debut against the Texas Rangers, and went on to a 5.06 ERA in six relief appearances, spanning 10.2 innings. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of action for the second half of the season.

In 2006, Stemle was once again beset by injuries. He made five appearances for the Royals but gave up 15 hits and 10 earned runs in just six innings. Nerve pain proved too difficult to overcome and just like that his playing career was over at 29. Fortunately, he was able to experience the major leagues as a reward for all the hard work and positive results from his career.

Since retiring from the pitching mound, Stemle has remained close to the game but not in the same way as many of his peers. He is a youth coach and has developed the Lokator System, a high-tech electronic (phone app) system and pitching academy that allows young pitchers to have access to top-notch data about their results. As a result, his baseball career is still in full swing, just in a different way than he might have imagined when he was first drafted.

Steve Stemle Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would have to say Ozzie Smith because of his defense and creativity all over the diamond.  I am a big fan of innovation and I feel like he recreated the art of playing shortstop.  

Can you describe your draft experience with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998- How did you find out you had been selected?
: I got the call on the house phone on a normal day when my parents were at work.  This was before the internet (man, I feel old) so there was no following along the draft or going anywhere to watch it.  We felt lucky to have ESPN!

What do you remember most about your major league debut?
: My debut outing ended up being my best so it was memorable on the field, but what was more memorable was the phone ringing in the bullpen and my number getting called.  I had pinpoint command in Triple-A before the call up and when I got on the bullpen mound to get loose before that first MLB outing I had the most adrenaline ever flowing.  I couldn't get the ball down at all in the bullpen; everything was shoulder-high on hitters.  My first 10 throws weren't even close but I told them I was ready.  Running into the game knowing I hadn't thrown any strikes in the bullpen had me focused on one thing; hit the catcher's glove and let the rest take care of itself.  I ended up throwing three perfect innings (the way I remember it) and having my best outing.  I still believe it was because I hit the catcher's target that day.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?
: (Derek) Jeter comes to mind right away.  He was such a complete player in every aspect of the game.  So much more goes into greatness than raw numbers even through he had all of those too.  I guess that's what made him so great. He had all the stats, Championships, MVP's, Gold Gloves, etc, but he was equally good in the intangibles category.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?
: I get a big kick out of watching the kids I coach succeed, even more than something I did as a player.  It's probably a combination of moments when a pitcher I have guided walks off the mound after a successful outing.

You faced
Hank Blalock three times during your MLB career and fanned him all three times. Why do you think you had his number?: I honestly have no idea.  Hank and I played each other in the minors as well, so some of that could have carried over into MLB.  It was just the luck of the draw I guess.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?
: I'm not big on regretting anything; what's the past is over.  I feel like to be a good baseball player you have to let go of yesterday and concentrate on the here and now.  Baseball helped teach me that lesson in everyday life and those are some of the really important things I try to pass along to the kids.

What goes into the decision of retiring from playing?
: My body broke!  There is no decision making process when it's a struggle to live everyday life because of playing injuries.  Nerve pain in the spine is not a joke, and I think I've found a good routine of different activities to keep me up and moving.  Pain everyday from a playing career is a reality for MANY of the players who play minor or major league ball. 

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I invented a pitching system called the Lokator System.  It started as a pitching target that had numbers for zones in a unique design.  Then I added an iOS app called Lokator Bullpen to teach pitch command, selection, sequencing, and give reports and rankings of individual pitcher's command statistics.  And recently I have finished work with the University of Louisville Computer Science to implement vision algorithms into Lokator's app.  Now pitchers will be able to use mobile phone cameras to record bullpen sessions with the Lokator Target, then get their velocity, trajectory, and location of all pitches stored in an online database.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

No comments:

Post a Comment