Former University of Dayton baseball player Craig Stammen looks in toward
home plate as a member of the Washington Nationals during a May
10, 2013, game against the Chicago Cubs in Washington, D.C.
COURTESY OF KYLE BROSTOWITZ/WASHINGTON NATIONALS
By: Keith Raad – Staff Writer
One day he’s trying to get out of a seventh-inning jam, the next he’s tackling marketing.
But for Craig Stammen, his current situation as a student at the University of Dayton does not require a glove or a rosin bag.
A former Flyer baseball player and current pitcher for the Washington Nationals of MLB, Stammen has returned to the Gem City to finish his entrepreneurship degree and fulfill a promise to his mother, a former educator herself.
“My mom would make sure she knew that I knew that it was still hanging over her head that I hadn’t finished,” Stammen said. “It was just something that I felt was very important for me, the future, my family, or any kids looking up to me that I was so close, and there’s no reason not to finish.”
Though he currently resides in Cincinnati, two hours south of his mother in Versailles, Stammen said she still keeps him focused.
“She’s always asking me how it’s going, if I’m doing my work, and if I’m doing good work,” Stammen said. “I don’t know if she’ll be satisfied if I get ‘C’s,’ she wants the ‘A’s’ and the ‘B’s. She keeps me grounded … and hopefully it’ll make her pretty happy to grab this college degree.”
Drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 MLB Rule 4 Draft by the Nationals, Stammen jumped on the opportunity to play professionally.
“When you first get here, you have a goal of graduating,” Stammen said. “Then I left here early to pursue professional baseball which turned out to be a good choice. But it still was always in the back of my head that I still hadn’t finished.”
With only four classes until his degree is fulfilled, Stammen will complete a marketing class, a human resource class, a business communication class, and a sports economics class.
“I’ve got a full boat,” Stammen said. “It’s pretty fun. It’s kind of neat to relive my college years again. Even for just a couple of weeks. It’s fun to meet the students here and compare what life was like for the first time, and then what it’s like now.”
As of early February, things in the classroom look bright.
“I’ll graduate in May, barring me failing any classes,” Stammen said with a smile. “But it looks good so far. It looks like I’ll make it.”
With classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the spring semester, Stammen fills his other days working out and spending time with the Flyers baseball team.
A lucky driver might see him tossing at Woerner Field at Time Warner Cable Stadium, adjacent to I-75.
“It’s nice to be back here and use the facilities at Dayton, be around the players, be around the team,” Stammen said. “I feel like I’m part of the team now because I’ve been around them so much. It’s been fun to have Dayton be a part of getting me ready for the season.”
As for the high-profiled life of an MLB pitcher, Stammen said he enjoys the spotlight, not for himself, but for where he came from.
“The thing is, I love talking baseball. I love talking about it,” Stammen said. “It’s something I enjoy and I am very passionate about it. As far as the interviews go, I’m glad I can promote the University of Dayton because they’ve done a lot for me. I owe them as much as I can. Hopefully I’m doing my part.”
One of 15 players drafted out of Dayton and the third highest ever, Stammen dons his red and blue Nationals jersey on game day, but never without the reminder of the former red and blue.
“[Getting drafted] is something that I can’t just credit myself for,” Stammen said. “There’s a lot of other people in that process and it’s kind of fun to come back to UD and hang out with those people who were part of the process like coach [Tony Vittorio] … Seeing all of the administrators who work in the athletics department and behind the scenes has made me appreciative of them getting me to where I am. Hopefully I’ve been able to make them proud.”
In his ninth season of professional baseball, Stammen has locked down a spot as a reliever. He also will play alongside another former Flyer, Jerry Blevins, who was traded by the Oakland Athletic’s to the Nationals on December 11, 2013.
Stammen said it’s a calming feeling.
“As opposed to a lot of other spring trainings I’ve had in the past … this is the second one that I’ll pretty much know I’ll be on the major league team,” he said. “So, it’s a little bit more relaxing and I know I can take my time getting ready for Opening Day, instead of Spring Training.”
For now, Stammen is focused ongetting his work done on campus. His latest academic project was a presentation on how to get the millennial generation to get involved with non-profit organizations like the United Way of America.
When Spring Training comes around, his only worry will be schoolwork in-between tossing and working out. But he’s already smiling about his new-found secret – and sacrifice.
“I’ll just have to cut out some of my golf.”