Cyclones outfielder Stefan Sabol had high expectations his playing days at Aliso Niguel High School in California. The then-catcher was drafted in the 17th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves, but outside help influenced him to take another route.
“The Braves made a good offer to me and I wanted to go pro,” Sabol said. “I called my parents to let them know (of my decision), but my dad and my advisor wanted me to go to college because they said it was the better route. I trusted them and believed and they were looking out for my best interest.”
Sabol ultimately attended the University of Oregon where he began his collegiate career. After being drilled by a pitch in the hand, Sabol was diagnosed with a broken hand and missed 18 games with the Ducks. After his freshman campaign, Sabol transferred to Orange Coast College, a junior college, to be eligible to be drafted.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” Sabol responded when asked if he regretted college. “I got to play in the (Cape Cod League). That was a real cool experience for me.”
The Cape Cod League is a summer collegiate baseball league and Sabol played for the Cotuit Kettleers in 2011 between his freshman year at Oregon and his sophomore year at Orange Coast. Mets fans may know of Cotuit, as 2012 Mets Hall of Famer John Franco was part of the team in 1980.
Sabol looked to get back on track with Orange Coast in 2012. Unfortunately for Sabol, he broke the hamate bone in his hand during the preseason due to overworking and missed a good portion of the season. He finished the 2012 season with Orange Coast with a .273 batting average in 27 games.
“I wanted to get back into the draft.” Sabol explained. “I thought I had a good year in the cape and decided that if I get back into (junior college) ball, I can get into the draft and be drafted higher. Obviously the hand surgery didn’t help out and I came back way too early from it.”
As a result of his injuries, Sabol found himself in the same position as he was in 2012. The Mets drafted him in the 17th round; the same round Atlanta drafted him in two years prior. Sabol never expected to be drafted this late.
“I was healthy, strong, and most scouts were looking between the second and fifth round,” Sabol said. “I didn’t expect to go in the 17th round at all. After the 10th round went by, I was thinking about going back to college for another year at Oklahoma State. At the last second, I texted every scout I knew.”
The 2012 season marked Sabol’s first in professional baseball, and he’s shown to be a key part of the Cyclones’ lineup. Though drafted as a catcher by the Mets, he’s played every game of his professional career in the outfield, a position he only occasionally played two years ago.
“When I went to Oregon, that was my first time playing outfield every day,” Sabol said. “I was a little uncomfortable (about playing outfield) at first because it’s a completely opposite position from being a catcher. When you’re a catcher it’s easy to forget about your at bats because you have to take care of the pitcher and worry about your defense. When you play the outfield, if you have a bad day at the plate it sticks with you until you’re next at bat because you’re all alone out there. It was a different transition but it’s getting better.”
Though still adjusting to playing outfield every day, Sabol also takes into consideration his injury.
“The hand is getting better, but it’s not where it was before it was injured,” he said. “The doctors said it would take a full calendar year to get the full strength back in the hand, but I’m feeling good.”
Baseball has been a key part of Sabol’s life. In fact, he even relates non-baseball activities to the game.
“This year at my junior college during the playoffs, every time I watched The Avengers, I hit a home run.” Sabol exclaimed. “I think I had four home runs in the playoffs and each time, I watched the Avengers beforehand. If I didn’t watch The Avengers, I didn’t hit a home run.”
-- By Mike Baggerman