Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oriole #716- John Stephens

As I've mentioned before, the early 2000's were my low period of Orioles interest; I still rooted for the O's and attended a game here and there, but I didn't follow the team closely. I was in college doing college-ish things, so I didn't have a lot of time to follow the Orioles' day-to-day moves or transactions.

Before looking him up today, I knew that John Stephens was Australian...and that's about it.

What I didn't know about him could fill a book. When the Orioles signed him out of Australia in 1996, he was considered a top international prospect, but shortly after that, he suffered a rather serious neck injury (of course he did, he was an Orioles prospect) that sapped his pitches of their elite velocity. He was forced to rely more on his off-speed pitches but adjusted well and went on to win the Orioles' minor league pitcher of the year award three times, in 1999, 2001, & 02.

That season, he also appeared for the "World" team in the 2002 All-Star Futures Game. The picture on this card was clearly taken at that game, but he's wearing an Orioles hat, and it lists him as an Oriole, so I consider it an Orioles card. There are multiple cards that better picture him in a full Orioles uniform, so maybe one day I will pull the trigger and upgrade my autograph.

John was called up to the Orioles in July 2002 and made his Baltimore debut on July 30, 2002, becoming the 716th player in the history of the team. That season, over his 12 games, including 11 starts, he was 2-5 with a 6.09 ERA in what proved to be his only big league action. He continued pitching in the minor leagues through the 2006 season before hanging up his spikes.

During his career, John had represented his home country a few times in international competitions, including the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. He also won a silver medal with the Australian team team during the 2004 Summer Olympics.

At this point, I feel like I know more than enough about John and his Orioles career, but learning about "new" players has been one of my favorite parts of my autograph project.

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