Former Dublin Scioto High School baseball coach Scott Marple could sense Eric Stamets was a special talent when he joined the Irish program as a freshman in 2006.
After successful prep and collegiate careers, followed by rising in the ranks of the Cleveland Indians’ organization, Stamets will begin the season at the major-league level and has been named the team’s starting shortstop.
He replaces Francisco Lindor, who originally was expected to miss time while rehabbing a strained right calf and now is expected to be out longer after spraining his left ankle while running the bases.
“This is incredible news for central Ohio baseball and the Irish baseball program specifically,” Marple said. “When we first met Eric it was clear that he was going to be a special player, but many special players don’t make the major-league level. His feet, hands and instincts were obvious from the beginning, and what we’ve since learned is that he also possesses the drive to be great and the humility to handle greatness.”
The Indians open Thursday, March 28, at Minnesota.
“Nothing’s really set in yet” Stamets told the Akron Beacon Journal. “It’s cool to be in a big-league clubhouse, getting to see Texas (to end spring training), obviously, it’s the first couple times I’ve been in a big-league atmosphere. I’m sure I’ll be very nervous (on opening day). It’s something I’ve waited my whole life for, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Stamets told the Beacon Journal that his father, Jim, and wife, Kaitlyn, will be among those in attendance for his major-league debut.
“I don’t know if there is really anything you can do,” Stamets said about battling nerves. “Obviously, I’ve never played in front of this many people. I guess, try to take a step back and enjoy the moment. It’s a special moment.”
A 2009 graduate of Scioto, 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 Triple-A Columbus, combining to hit .237 with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 37 RBI.
In 2017, he again split time between Columbus and Akron, combining to hit .259 with 26 doubles, 16 home runs and 52 RBI.
A lower-back injury limited his playing time last season with Columbus as he batted .202 with 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 16 RBI in 78 games.
Stamets spent spring training with Cleveland. He hit a grand slam in a 10-1 win at Texas on March 25 in an exhibition game.
FORGET ABOUT IT!
Eric Stamets crushes a grand slam to put the@Indians up 4-0.pic.twitter.com/6DMXDE8J98
“I’m not simply excited that Eric is Scioto's first big leaguer, I'm excited that our first big leaguer is Eric,” Marple said. “You can’t ask for a better representative of your program. He plays hard, he plays with class and he is the ultimate character guy. Young players would do well to emulate the way he carries himself on and off the field.”