BOISE — It’s a night that every high school and college baseball player with aspirations of playing in the big leagues looks forward to: the Major League Baseball Draft. Ryan Stephens was no different. After almost 20 years of playing baseball, which included being a four-year starter at Middle Tennessee State, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound outfielder was ready for his name to be called. There were 40 rounds and 30 players per round in the 2014 MLB Draft. Nearly 1,200 players got picked. He wasn’t one of them. “I was pretty upset when I didn’t get drafted because I knew I still had a lot left in the tank,” Stephens said. “But at the same time I had peace of mind because I left it all out on the field, and I knew if I still wanted to play, there were options out there. It took me searching for those options.” That searching led the 23-year-old to the Boise Hawks this season, a place he looks to show other teams what they missed out on by not selecting him in that draft two years ago. “I have a chip on my shoulder, and I know I can compete at this level,” Stephens said. “It’s a matter of just proving it and staying consistent, and that’s my main goal is to just stay consistent.” When no team selected him in the 2014 draft, Stephens, who is the former Offensive Player of the Year at Riverdale High School in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the former All-Sun Belt Second Team selection at Middle Tennessee State, decided to just focus on his studies. “I had a semester left, so I was getting my internship hours in the summer by digging in-ground pools,” Stephens said. “Being in a hole, in 120-degree Tennessee heat is not very fun.” After several months of doing this physically draining activity, Stephens decided enough was enough. “I looked up one day and decided this isn’t it for me, and that ignited a fire within me to get back on the field,” Stephens said. “I wanted to give baseball another shot, whether it was in independent ball or hopefully playing in minor league professional baseball.” Upon graduating with a degree in concrete industry management, Stephens got with fellow Middle Tennessee State alum and current Major League Baseball player Michael McKenry, who at the time was playing catcher for the Colorado Rockies. McKenry became Stephen’s workout partner, and helped him ultimately land a tryout with the Rockies in February of 2015, just two weeks before the start of spring training. “I owe a lot of credit to him for where I’m at now,” Stephens said. “He really motivated me and kept me in shape every single day.” The tryout, which lasted about an hour and saw him take batting practice with current Rockies player Nolan Arenado, who is leading the National League in homers and RBIs this season with 20 and 57 respectively, ended with some great bit of news. “About an hour and a half after my workout, Chris Forbes, the manager of player development for the Rockies called me up to his office and told me he wanted to invite me to spring training and be a part of their organization,” Stephens said. “I had a huge grin on my face from ear to ear and it was a huge sigh of relief, but I knew it was time to get to work.” In his first game as a member of the Rockies’ franchise, as part of the Rookie League Grand Junction Rockies, Stephens hit not one, but two home runs to drive in a grand total of six runs. During his eight game tenure there, he had 14 hits, 11 RBIs and a .412. batting average. After those eight games, he moved up to the full-season Single-A Asheville Tourists, where his production dipped. In 42 games, Stephens had 34 hits, 15 RBIs and a .225 batting average. Now as a member of the short-season Single-A Hawks this season, Stephens looks to put up much better numbers, his manager certainly thinks he can. “He is a good player,” Boise Hawks manager Andy Gonzalez said. “He can run, has some power, plays tremendous defense and just does a lot for us.” Through the first two games of the season, the right fielder is 0-3 at the plate with two strikeouts. He’ll look to improve those numbers at 6:01 p.m. MT. tonight when the Hawks conclude their three-game road series against the Eugene Emeralds. “I want to do whatever I can to win a championship for the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League,” Stephens said.
BOISE — It’s a night that every high school and college baseball player with aspirations of playing in the big leagues looks forward to: the Major League Baseball Draft.