San Diego reliever credits God for happy marriage and baseball comeback

By Tom Hager, Athletes For God staff writer

When Craig Stammen's college baseball coach called him up a few years ago, the San Diego reliever must have been rolling his eyes and laughing. Dayton coach Tony Vittorio was calling to say he had found Stammen's future wife. Vittorio was great at a lot of things, but he hadn't exactly listed "matchmaker" near the top of his resume.

"I'm glad you've met her and I haven't," Stammen joked back.

Vittorio knew that this was going to be the response, and arranged the meeting anyway. It's just that he refrained from letting Stammen - or his future wife - in on the secret. So when Stammen went to meet up with Vittorio for lunch, she was there. The rest, as they say, is history.

It wasn't the first time Vittorio saw something in Stammen or in someone else that others hadn't. 

 
 

(Photo courtesy of Scott Wachter/San Diego)

In high school Stammen wasn't good enough to be considered for the draft, nor was he getting much consideration for a college scholarship. Stammen had already graduated from high school, and as the summer before college began, he still had no offers. At that point Stammen was going to attend the University of Dayton as a regular student.

"My plan was just to walk on the baseball team and if I was good enough I was going to keep playing, and if I wasn't good enough that was going to be it," Stammen said. "I hadn't really come to grips (with giving up on baseball). I didn't know how I was going to do without playing sports, but I assumed I would figure it out."

That summer Vittorio discovered the pitching prospect and offered him a scholarship. Things began to pick up for Stammen, and by his junior year the Flyers had broken the school record for wins, and he was off to the 2005 MLB draft. The Washington Nationals picked him up in the 12th round and within four years he was on the big league roster.

Things seemed to be going beyond Stammen's wildest dreams on the field. Off the field his faith was strong, but not everything was righteous in God’s eyes. Stammen had some learning and growing to do.

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(Title photo courtesy Scott Wachter/San Diego)

Thomas Hager