(Photo courtesy of Scott Wachter/San Diego)

In the 2014 season, Stammen found himself at a crossroads. There were things in his life he was not proud of that had manifested by living the “big league” lifestyle. 

He had been in a relationship that wasn’t fruitful. He was engaged to be married, but the potential future marriage seemed to be a result of pushing problems under the rug. They were planning a marriage to escape continued problems in an unhealthy relationship. There was no doubt they could’ve made it work, but just making it work isn’t what God designed marriage for. 

It was time for his Christian brothers on the team to intervene with the lead of the team chaplain. The team had formed a strong Bible study group that poured into each other through scripture, prayer, and regular meeting. His teammates were going to help Stammen open his eyes to what he couldn't see. Or maybe what he didn't want to see.

"They basically cornered me and said 'Hey we don't think this is right for you to be getting married,' and they gave me great Christian advice," Stammen recalled. "They knew what it took to be married and how happy a happy marriage is if done through God’s advice in scripture, so we talked through that. I definitely bucked a little bit, but I knew neither of us were happy, so we dug into scripture. I committed to prayer and I think the Lord directed me in the right way through that situation.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but in the end it has proved to change my life in a way I never imagined.”

 

The wedding was called off and through that tough time, Stammen’s relationship with Christ was transformed. By committing to daily prayer and reading, the days of feeling like he let so many people down became a story of redemption only through the power, grace, and mercy of Christ. 

 

At that point Stammen was in his sixth year in the big leagues, and was coming off the two best years in his career, when he went 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 2012 and 7-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 2013. However, all the accomplishments failed in comparison to the peace and joy he felt of a true relationship with Jesus! 

 

Enter Vittorio stage left.

 

When Stammen met Audrey that season, it didn't take him long to realize what he had in front of him. The two felt comfortable around each other, and a big part of that was because one of their first dates was going to Sunday mass at Holy Angels in Dayton, Ohio. 

 

"We had been in situations that didn't work out and weren't the way God intended them and then we found a relationship that did work and we got a second chance," Stammen said. "We were given a second chance to do it the right way, and we've tried our hardest to do it the right way no matter where we're at, or what we're doing."

 

When the two met, however, Stammen's career was about to enter a crossroads. He missed almost the entire 2015 season with an injury, and that offseason the Nationals decided not to tender his contract, meaning that he was a free agent. He was now free to go wherever he chose. 

 

However, the guy who pitched more innings out of the bullpen than any other major leaguer between 2012-2014 couldn't find a team to offer him a guaranteed Major League contract. Still, his faith in God - and in his own abilities - remained.

 

Stammen spent the 2016 season with Cleveland's minor league affiliates on a minor league contract. Audrey was getting her first taste of the baseball life. She continued to stick by his side and encourage him through the ups and downs of a rehab season. With her positivity and love, it made it easy for Stammen to continue on the comeback. 

 

Stammen, meanwhile, kept a positive attitude through the whole situation. The amenities and the food weren't as good as the major leagues, Stammen said, but the people were. He met some lifelong friends while he worked his way back to the majors. He eventually signed with San Diego before the 2017 season on another minor league contract, where he made the big league team out of spring training. 

 

Early on, however, Stammen struggled mightily as he readjusted to MLB. At one point, after giving up another three runs on April 25th his ERA was 10.24. Looking back, Stammen said he was perhaps one bad outing from being cut or being sent down.

 

"I was just pitching to the point where they were just going to stop given me opportunities to go out there and pitch," Stammen said. "I needed to turn it around."

 

With the pressure mounting with each bad outing, Stammen continued to turn to God for comfort and guidance. 

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Thomas Hager