So from time to time on here I hope to be writing about some of the good guys in sports that I come across, since it seems the first Commandment of Blogs is: Thou shall always rip athletes and criticize, and never praise. I think there’s such a tsunami of negativity out there (tsunami of negativity, that’d be a cool band name!), that I’m going to do my small part to point out the virtuous and decent.
Last week in a story for my newspaper, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, I wrote this column about Lance Allred, one of my all-time Top 5 favorite interviews/players I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. He’s a good guy.
And so is Tim Stauffer. I first met him in 2003 when I was working for the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star, and he was a local boy who’d made extraordinarily good, being the No.4 pick in the entire Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
I went to the Stauffer’s house in Saratoga Springs the day he was drafted, and met his wonderful parents, Rick and Becky. They let me wander around Tim’s room, and I had a wonderful time talking to them. Rick managed a local grocery store, and Becky was an elementary school teacher. They were such humble, friendly, down-to-earth people, and when I met Tim and he was the same way, I knew this was a family who deserved the great success that was about to come to them.
For a while, Stauffer’s career looked good. He showed his honesty and true nature by telling the Padres about a small shoulder injury he had, one that had gone undetected by the Padres’ doctors. By revealing the stiffness in his shoulder, Stauffer cost himself about $2 million in signing bonus money. But he told the truth to his new employer.
He soared through the minor leagues, and the newspaper flew me to Cincinnati in 2005 to write about Tim’s major-league debut, which he won. The righty spent 2005 establishing himself as a big league pitcher, and it looked like he was going to lead the Padres for the next decade.
Except it didn’t work out like that. He had shoulder problems for a while, then he just couldn’t find the strike zone, and then he had some truly disastrous outings in the minor leagues back in 2007. He was called a bust, and many baseball people mocked the Padres for misfiring so badly on a top pick.
Finally in 2008 Stauffer had major surgery to repair a torn labrum, and it looked like his career was over.
Except it wasn’t. He started throwing strikes again in May, and the Padres (who, let’s face it, likely would’ve released Stauffer a few years back if he hadn’t been such a high draft pick) sent him to Double-A San Antonio. Stauffer pitched really well. Then he moved up to Triple-A. And he pitched even better.
So last Saturday, San Diego called him back to the big leagues, and the now-27-year-old pitched great, allowing only two runs over seven innings.
I don’t know if Stauffer will stick in San Diego, though his parents are flying there this weekend to see him pitch again.
But if you want to see a likeable kid with a wonderful family finally reach the heights of his profession, root for No. 46 next time he takes the mound.
It will be hope well spent.