Grit, Tenacity And Dedication Have The 25-Year-Old Infielder On The Cusp Of Making Big League Dreams Come True
It is absolutely no secret that Angels fans want to see Michael Stefanic in the majors, as soon as yesterday. His play has been the talk of the town with Triple-A Salt Lake this season and with the Angels not in the thick of playoff contention, the opportunity to see what the 5-foot-10 infielder can do against major league pitching with his talented bat should be rewarded.
Entering today, Stefanic is batting .339 (135 Hits) with 14 home runs and 56 runs batted in through 103 games (21 in Double-A and 82 in Triple-A). Recording 36 multi-hit games and a sub 20% K rate this season speaks to his ability to put the ball in play as a contact hitter, which is a characteristic of his game he has put on display his entire career. Stefanic can easily be compared to David Fletcher, not only because of their size and stature, but their playmaking ability offensively at the plate and defensively in the infield.
Sheeessshhhh that’s Michael Stefanic’s second homer of the night. pic.twitter.com/DTqDltAa2m
— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) August 15, 2021
To gain perspective of Stefanic’s journey, let’s take a look back at what got the Boise, Idaho native to where he is today. Early on as a young kid, the passion for baseball stemmed from playing the EA Sports MLB video game. Stefanic learned the rules and strategy behind the game of baseball and took those experiences into playing catch with his mom. As a simple game of catch turned into Little League action, it was easy for everyone to see Stefanic had natural talent and competitiveness. He always seemed to play with older kids, especially when he made the high school varsity team as a freshman.
Even with a high skill set, Stefanic received no college offers and made one last ditch effort to be recruited by attending a Stanford University Baseball camp. It was there he impressed coach Robert Ruiz of Westmont University (Santa Barbara, CA) into a walk-on position as one of four potential second baseman battling for a starting job in 2016. By the end of fall practices (2015), Stefanic won the job and the rest quickly became history. The walk-on standout was named to the All-GSAC team and the GSAC Gold Glove Team all four years as a Westmont Warrior. This was the first time in program history a player earned both awards all four seasons. When he graduated, the record books would remember his name as he led in At-Bats (757), Runs Scored (157), Hits (275), Doubles (50), Total Bases (453), and Hit By Pitch (37).
#OnThisDate: June 21
2018: Michael Stefanic was named to the NAIA Gold Glove Team as a second baseman, adding to the NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors he previously received.
Stefanic earned All-GSAC and GSAC Gold Glove honors 4 times, the only Warrior to ever do so. pic.twitter.com/k3UbegsLIv
— Westmont Athletics (@WestmontSports) June 21, 2020
Taking everything into consideration after a successful collegiate career, Stefanic still went undrafted in 2018, however the fight to keep the MLB dream alive was not finished. After taking some time to refocus at home, Stefanic got together with his former high school coach and created a resume video on his iPad fielding ground balls and taking batting practice swings. Taking a leap of faith, Stefanic sent the video to over 200 people within all 30 Major League Baseball franchises. The video ended up resonating with only one team, the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos signed him on July 19, 2018 as an “extra body” in their organization, but the upwards trajectory from Rookie ball (Orem) to Triple-A Salt Lake in less than three years (including a missing 2020 season due to Covid-19) is quite impressive.
When you look at the current roster general manager Perry Minasian has constructed with all of the injuries this season, there is no question Stefanic should get a chance to make a name for himself. Right now, Jack Mayfield, Phil Gosselin and the aforementioned David Fletcher are locks to stay the remainder of the season, but Luis Rengifo (32 Games – .163 Avg., 3 HR, 7 RBI) and Kean Wong (22 Games – .182 Avg., 5 RBI, 2 2B) are probably not worthy of as much time as they are currently getting.
Just another RBI base hit for Michael Stefanic pic.twitter.com/uex5Pyxxlk
— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) August 21, 2021
Baseball aficionados praise manager Joe Maddon consistently for the approach he takes with young talent. We have seen it in depth this year with Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and the numerous pitchers that have been brought up from the minors, so it begs the question, can Stefanic receive the same treatment/opportunity?
With 22 games remaining following today’s off day, the answer should most definitely be yes, especially by the time the Angels return to the Big A for their final homestand of the 2021 season that will feature three AL West foes (Oakland, Houston and Seattle) from September 17 through 26.