Eric Stamets continues his pursuit of a longtime goal in front of family and friends.
The 2009 Dublin Scioto High School graduate has emerged as the starting shortstop for the Columbus Clippers -- the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate -- this season as he strives for a chance to play at the major league level.
Stamets has had a strong following for each home game, as family and friends regularly attend games at Huntington Park in support of the former Scioto standout.
"There's a lot of people who haven't seen me play since high school, and this gives them an opportunity to if they want to come see me now that I'm local," Stamets said.
One of the loyal followers is his father. According to Jim Stamets, his son's dream of playing professional baseball began while competing at the youth level in Dublin.
"I remember taking him up to see a team in Warren, Ohio, a single-A team," he said. "He was 12, 13 and I said, 'Defensively, you could play with these guys right now.' It's always been a dream and he's pursuing it. It's a lot of fun and he just likes playing.
"I'm so proud and, with the Indians' organization, you couldn't ask for a better place. They've been real good to him since he's been here."
Stamets played for the University of Evansville before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the sixth round (207th overall pick) of the 2012 MLB draft. He signed with the Angels that year, reporting to Cedar Rapids in Class A, and in 2013 was named the Angels' Organizational Defensive Player of the Year.
Stamets was traded to the Indians on July 28, 2015, in exchange for outfielder David Murphy and reported to Double-A Akron, where he batted .197 in 33 games. In 2016, he split time between Akron and Columbus, combining to hit .237 with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 37 RBI.
Stamets began this season with the Clippers, but was sent back to Akron after collecting just one hit in his first 10 games. He then batted .289 in 13 games with Akron before being promoted back to Columbus on May 14.
Stamets has continued to improve at the plate since returning to the Clippers. Through June 20, he was hitting .298 with 12 doubles, nine home runs and 27 RBI in 37 games, raising his batting average from .143 on May 24.
He hit a pair of home runs in back-to-back games against Norfolk on May 28 and 29 as part of a nine-game hitting streak, and had three home runs in a 7-6 win over Gwinnett on June 16.
"At this point, I've gotten into a routine and know what I'm doing around here," said Stamets, who was named first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference, third-team All-America and MVC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior at Evansville in 2012. "I know all the procedures, protocol for everything. I'm pretty comfortable now."
While his hitting has improved this season, his defense has remained a constant.
"He's done a very good job since coming back (from Akron)," Clippers manager Chris Tremie said. "He started off the year here and because of roster situations had to go back to Akron, and since coming back, he's played really well. He continues to progress at the plate with his offense and he's been outstanding defensively all year long."
With 23-year-old Francisco Lindor and 24-year-old Jose Ramirez entrenched at shortstop and third base, respectively, for the Indians, Stamets realizes he must bide his time as he awaits his shot at playing in the majors.
Stamets is open to a position change if it helps him realize his goal. There also is always a chance of a trade.
"I'm doing my job. I can't control what moves (the Indians) make or who they acquire or what they do," he said. "All I do is play the game and see where they fall... I'm trying to play as many positions as I can for any opportunity that opens up and hopefully that comes sooner than later. But as long as it happens at some point in my career, that's what I'm striving for."
Stamets helped Scioto win OCC-Cardinal Division titles in 2006 and 2009. As a senior, he set program records for batting average (.549), runs scored (43) and triples (9) and was named league Player of the Year and first-team all-state and all-district in Division I.
He credits Scott Marple, who coached Scioto from 2007-10, for his development.
"He was instrumental in my high school development," Stamets said. "He was my coach for three years and was on staff my freshman year, so those four years were very critical. It got me to college and helped me develop. We stay in touch, so he was a big part of that."
Marple was impressed by Stamets before Stamets even played a game for the Irish.
"One of the things we saw first that summer (before Stamets' freshman year at Scioto) was that he had incredible feet, incredible hands and incredible instincts. That's something you can't really coach, that's something innate," Marple said. "He's been on that track of development mostly because he loves the game, plays the game hard, practices the game hard and plays it the right way."