Every young child who plays baseball in his backyard dreams of the day he will get the opportunity to play at an elite college level and then continue to pursue their dream in the big leagues.
Dylan Stoops’ career at the University of Richmond had its ups and its down. He was sidelined with two major injuries that affected parts of a few seasons. The left-hander wouldn’t let that stop him though as he continued to battle and give it all he had on the hill.
He was granted a fifth year in 2015 and made 16 appearances with nine starts. Stoops tossed one complete game and posted a record of 6-1, and registered75 strikeouts in 71 innings of work. Stoops also picked off an Atlantic 10-best six runners, pushing his school record total to 16.
After putting together a standout final year with Richmond, his dream was still alive to be selected in the MLB Draft, but Stoops didn’t hear his name.
However he wasn’t going to let that stop him from pursuing his dream to play professional baseball.
“Not being drafted served as a large part in my motivation in my decision to start playing Independent baseball,” said Stoops. Throughout my time in college an in summer ball I felt as if I had moments that proved I could play at the next level, but then an injury would come along and unfortunately my name was never called on Draft Day.”
Stoops went home to East Prospect, Pa. and got a call from the Sonoma Stompers out of the Independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs.
“I looked at Independent baseball as a chance to prove to teams that I could not only play at the next level, but have success,” said Stoops. “One thing that helped me towards this decision was that I was still completing my Master’s degree so I gave myself two summers to give it all I had left in the tank to try and make my childhood dreams come true.”
Stoops played just one season with the Stompers before earning a roster spot with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League, which is a higher-tier of Independent League baseball in the Midwest.
This season, the lefty led the Frontier League with a 9-3 record and 3.18 ERA. Then he received a phone call that would change everything for him.
The San Diego Padres called. Stoops’ dream of playing baseball at the professional level became a reality.
“When I got the call from the Padres my body was flooded with emotions,” said Stoops. “At first I was speechless, then I started to choke up when I called my parents. When my mom dropped the phone and I heard her crying, tears started to roll down my face as well. The rest of the night was a mix between laughing and disbelief as I celebrated the moment with another Richmond alum, Andrew Brockett. My journey was much different from the traditional path because of my setbacks and even though I wasn’t being drafted in the first round I felt like I was because my dream that started when I was three years old, swinging a wiffleball bat in the front yard had finally come true, and I think that is what evoked all of those emotions. I had no idea if this will last another day or another 20 years, but I feel like I’m in a dream and still can’t believe everything worked out the way it did, and I will give every day and every opportunity all that I have throughout this experience.”
Stoops got the start in his minor league debut for the Lake Elsinore Storm on August 24 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He didn’t disappoint in his debut either. The southpaw went five innings scattering six hits and allowed just one run while fanning eight.
“Leading up to the day of my first start I had played every single scenario of how the game could go in my head, but on the morning of my start all of that was gone. I was anxious,” said Stoops. “I’ve never been someone who gets nervous, I get overly excited. The first start was my opportunity to prove that I belonged with the Padres and minor league baseball. My goal going into my first start was to have no regrets, whether I threw a perfect game or set a league record for runs allowed, I wanted to throw my game and have no “what if’s” afterwards.”
Even as he continues his professional baseball career, one thing hasn’t changed for Stoops. Even though he is just a year and a half removed from his time as a Spider, he still reminisces about being back at Pitt Field on gameday with 30 of his closest friends.
“Sitting in the locker room and getting ready to go into battle with 30 guys that I consider family is a truly special feeling. I loved every second it,” he said. “The best part was the final out of the a win. Being on the field celebrating a victory can’t be beat. You get to look your teammates in the eye as you see a smile on everyone’s face and hear Piano Man play.”
Stoops may not have taken the most direct route to his dream, but that is what makes each of our stories unique. He never let injury or those who told him maybe baseball just wouldn’t pan out for him stand in his way – he had a dream and he was going to give one hundred percent everyday.
“Never give up,” he said. “That pertains to anything in life. There’s always a million reasons not to do something in life, but all it takes is one good reason to do it. Life shouldn’t be filled with second guesses. If you put everything you have into achieving a goal, no matter the outcome, you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror knowing you did everything in your power to reach it.”