Gregg and Randi Stock barely had time to kick off their shoes before the phone rang.
Only 20 minutes after completing a six-hour drive from Sacramento to Westlake on June 23, Robert Stock, the couple’s son, was on the other end of the line telling his parents they’d have to brave a few more hours of traffic.
Gregg and Randi, who had just gotten back from watching their son pitch for the El Paso Chihuahuas against the Sacramento River Cats on June 22, didn’t mind taking another trip up north when they found out Robert had just gotten called up to play Major League Baseball for the San Diego Padres.
Back-to-back, six-hour road trips sound grueling, but it pales in comparison to the decade-long journey Robert Stock went through before reaching the show.
“After 10 years of playing in the minor leagues and finally getting here, it’s truly a lifetime experience I’ll never forget,” the 28-year-old said.
It didn’t take long for the Padres to utilize the 6-foot-1, 214-pound right-handed pitcher.
Stock and fellow pitcher Kazuhisa Makita arrived in San Francisco around 9 p.m. June 23. On June 24, San Diego skipper Andy Green, short on arms, called on Stock to make his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants.
“That couldn’t have been a more memorable experience, showing up as the new guy and finding myself in the 10th inning of a tied ballgame on the road,” Stock said.
Stock whizzed two 97 mile-per-hour fastballs by Joe Panik before giving up a double.
“That was some added pressure,” Stock said, “but luckily I got out of it.”
He struck out two of the next three batters to close out the frame.
Stock’s now made four appearances with the Padres, most recently against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 1. At press time, he’d thrown a combined three innings, allowing five hits and one run while fanning five batters.
He’s savoring life in the bigs.
“It makes you feel how nice and enjoyable it is to be in the big leagues,” Stock said of the luxurious hotels, spacious flights, state-of-the-art locker rooms and tasty cuisines. “If you thought you were working hard before, now you want to work even harder to stay here.”
Stock remembers the days of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in leaky minor league locker rooms that smelled like damp stirrups.
“I hope I pitch well enough that I can have more time with the Padres,” he said.
Stock grew up playing in Agoura and Westlake PONY leagues. He was already throwing close to 80 miles per hour as a 12-year-old.
“When he was pitching, we drew straws to see who got stuck having to catch him because it would hurt our hands,” said Devin Sirkus, Stock’s youth coach from 2001 to 2002 in Agoura PONY.
“You knew back then that he was special.”
While Stock had a powerful arm, his bat was equally impressive. He’d launch balls further than anyone during batting practice at Lupin Hill Elementary School. Many of his blasts would end up on Parkmor Road.
“On the drive home, we’d go pick up the balls that were in the street 400 feet away,” Sirkus said.
Stock played high school ball under Scott Deck at Agoura, where Stock’s younger brothers Richard and Jacob also prepped. Robert Stock played his last season in a Charger uniform as a junior in 2006. He played at USC for three years before being drafted as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009. Cardinal coaches recommended Stock move from behind the dish to the mound.
He briefly fizzled out of minor league ball, however, and spent 2016 playing in the New Jersey Independent Baseball League with his brother, Richard.
At that point, Stock’s big league dreams seemed bleak.
That offseason, his nowfiancee, Sara Krutewicz, thought of making a video of Stock throwing into a net to show scouts. The couple uploaded the video to a Facebook group of professional baseball players.
“Within 24 hours, major league teams were calling me to try out for their minor league teams,” Stock said.
He made pit stops with the San Antonio Missions, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Daytona Tortugas and El Paso Chihuahuas before getting the call that changed his life.
Call him a career minor leaguer, call him a journeyman, a failed prospect, a long shot, a lost cause, a little too old, call him what you want. But today, call him a Major League Baseball player.
I am so deeply proud of this man. He waited his whole life for this opportunity… pic.twitter.com/LnV0IOpWjM
— Sara Krutewicz (@Sarakru) June 25, 2018
Gregg and Randi Stock have always made it a point to be there for the big moments of their son’s career, even if that means a pair of long road trips up north.
Gregg said he just hopes to continue watching Robert excel in the game.
“We’re happy he stuck with it,” Gregg Stock said. “Getting there is an awesome achievement, but it’s sort of just a step toward his ultimate goal of being a consistent major league player.”
AROUND THE HORN
Robert Stock isn’t the only big leaguer with connections to Acorn country.
Matt Magill, a Royal High graduate, is enjoying the best season of his pro career. The Minnesota Twins pitcher has made 18 appearances out of the bullpen, sporting a 2-1 record with 30 strikeouts, five walks and a 3.34 ERA in 32 1/3 innings at press time. He had a solid 1.08 WHIP.
Christian Yelich, a standout center fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, graduated from Westlake in 2010. He’s hitting .289 with 34 runs batted in, 11 homers, 10 stolen bases and 52 runs scored with the Brew Crew at press time.
Fellow Brewer Jett Bandy, a catcher and 2008 Thousand Oaks graduate, is batting .188 in 64 at bats. He’s compiled 12 hits and scored five runs. The Brewers were in first place in the National League Central as of July 2.
Former Newbury Park star Jimmie Sherfy, a relief pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was recently called up. He entered the week with four appearances this spring; he’s compiled four innings of work, allowing four walks and two hits (including a homer to Giants’ Joe Panik) while striking out three batters.
Mike Scioscia, a Conejo Valley resident and the Los Angeles Angels’ skipper since 2000, works with Scott Radinsky, the Angels’ bullpen coach who attended Simi Valley High, and Steve Soliz, a Rio Mesa graduate in charge of Angel catchers. The Angels entered the week fourth in the American League West with a 43-42 record.
Gabe Kapler, a former Moorpark College player, is a first-year skipper for the Philadelphia Phillies, who entered the week 45-37.
Torey Lovullo, the Arizona Diamondbacks manager with ties to Newbury Park (his son, Nick, is a minor leaguer in the Boston Red Sox farm system), had the Diamondbacks on top of the National League West standings with a 47-38 mark.
Email Jonathan Andrade at email@example.com.
The long and winding road
• Robert Stock, a 2007 Agoura High graduate, made his Major League Baseball debut June 24 with the San Diego Padres as a pitcher.
• Stock was drafted as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009 out of USC.
• The former Charger spent 10 years roaming the minor leagues, including a stint in independent ball in 2016, before getting the call to the big leagues.