Dale Stanavich’s summer of baseball this year was vastly different from those following his prior three years of collegiate baseball.
For one thing, the 2017 Amsterdam High School graduate could no longer wake up every morning in the bedroom he grew up in and simply make the short walk to Shuttleworth Park for home games.
“This was my first real summer away from home,” he said.
In his prior three summers, Stanavich had followed up his collegiate season — first at Marshall, then at Herkimer Community College — by simply heading home and pitching for the Amsterdam Mohawks.
This year, following a transfer to Rutgers, the left-handed pitcher headed to the mecca of summer collegiate baseball: the Cape Cod League.
It was a gamble on himself that paid huge dividends.
Stanavich started the summer on a temporary contract with the Brewster Whitecaps, and not only pitched himself into a full-time gig with the team, but had perhaps the best season of any relief pitcher in the league, earning himself a spot on the All-Cape Cod League team and playing an integral role in the Whitecaps’ championship summer.
Oh, and he also parlayed his summer success into a chance to pitch on hallowed ground at Fenway Park in August.
“When the school season ended,” Stanavich said, “I didn’t really know what to expect. I went to Brewster as a temporary player, and I packed my bags lightly, because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. After the first and second week, I kind of knew that I belonged there.”
With a fastball sitting from 91-94 mph and topping out at 95, Stanavich dominated Cape Cod League hitters coming out of the Brewster bullpen. In 15 appearances between the regular season and playoffs, Stanavich posted a 2.29 earned run average, striking out 36 and walking eight while allowing just 12 hits in 19 ⅔ innings.
Stanavich’s six saves during the regular season were good for second in the league, and his 30 regular-season strikeouts put him in the league’s top 15 despite throwing far fewer innings than the pitchers ahead of him.
In three postseason appearances, Stanavich notched two saves and a win on the Whitecaps’ way to a title.
“I was able to get ahead of hitters, and I struck a lot of them out, to be honest,” Stanavich said. “I was throwing some good stuff.”
That success earned him an invitation to pitch at Fenway on Aug. 27 during the 13th annual Kelly Rodman Summer Rivalry Classic. The game, which honors the memory of Rodman, a former New York Yankees scout, sees top high school and collegiate prospects from the New England region represent the Yankees and Boston Red Sox in a doubleheader.
Stanavich donned Yankees colors for the event, struck out two and induced a groundout in his inning out of the bullpen and finished the day awestruck from the experience.
“Even sitting in the bullpen and running out onto the field and onto the mound is an experience that I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was unbelievable. . . . Just hanging out in the bullpen, I was like, ‘Wow. Some of the greatest players that have ever played were sitting where I was just sitting,’ and then to run out of the bullpen and throw on that mound was even more surreal.”
Now, Stanavich is back at Rutgers, preparing for the 2022 season with the Scarlet Knights after he went 1-0 with five saves and a 3.13 ERA in 17 appearances this past season.
He’s got two years of athletic eligibility remaining, but expects that he won’t be back for a 2023 season at Rutgers. Not only is Stanavich due to graduate in May with a degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations, but it’s very likely that by next summer he’ll be putting his name to a professional baseball contract.
Stanavich said he had some talks with the Los Angeles Angels prior to the final day of this summer’s MLB Draft — though he ultimately wasn’t selected — and received a handful of free-agent offers from MLB clubs that he passed on.
Coming off his buzzworthy summer, however, he’s sure to be on more teams’ draft radar when 2022 rolls around.
“I want to get my name called,” he said. “I’m hopeful for that, but nothing’s guaranteed. I’ve just got to keep putting in the work.”
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