“I am still in shock,” Stanley said during an interview Thursday. “I am still trying to get it to sink in.”
The Clinton High graduate decided to forgo his senior year at UNC-Wilmington to take his shot in the majors. He and four of his Seahawk teammates were selected — Stanley, a catcher, was selected in the fourth round; junior pitcher Stephen Harrold was selected by the San Francisco Giants (12th round); senior reliever Seth Frankoff went to Oakland, (28th round); and junior Cameron Roth went to Baltimore (29th round), along with senior shortstop Mike Rooney (30th round).
“It wasn’t a hard decision,” Stanley said of leaving college to play for St. Louis. “I was ready for this opportunity this year. I have prepared myself throughout my college year to get to this level, and this was the year I wanted to get drafted and play ball. I knew that if I got an good opportunity, I would most likely go. I got a better than good opportunity, so I said why not?”
Stanley is coming off of an outstanding junior year with the Seahawks. He was selected to the First-Team All-Colonial; he was second on team with .323 batting average; he led CAA with 22 runners caught stealing; he connected on a game-winning homer against Duquesne (3/14); he fashioned a career-high 12-game hitting streak; and he had 23 multiple hit games and 15 multiple RBI games.
He was scouted by at least 25 professional baseball teams.
“I was told that I could possibly go fifth, sixth round, but fourth, man I was just so excited when I heard, I just couldn’t believe it. It still hasn’t hit me yet,” the 21-year-old said.
Despite the excitement surrounding his budding professional baseball career, Stanley said his college career is something that he wouldn’t have changed for anything.
“I can tell you I would not have wanted to be anywhere else but UNC-W,” he said. “ I had a fantastic experience there. I loved it, and really, it seemed like the time flew by. It is hard to leave, but I am still going to live in Wilmington in the off-season and work. My coaches also said that I could use the facilities at the college if I needed to, which is huge for me.”
Stanley’s college coach, Mark Scalf, said he is excited that his players are moving on. “We are just as excited for him as he is for himself,” he said of his UNC-W catcher.
“Cody has worked extremely hard to take his game to the next level and compete ... Of course, we hate to lose him, but I am very excited for him, and we are really looking forward to watching Cody’s progress.”
The Clinton High School graduate comes from a sports-related family. His parents, Kelly and Beverly Stanley of Clinton, and his brother, Taylor, as well as a host of uncles and aunts, were all involved in sports. In fact, Stanley is the first baseball prospect to be drafted into the majors from Clinton since his uncle, Jimmy Raynor, was picked up by the Dodgers as a pitcher 50 years ago.
“It is easier when you are surrounded with it, and that is what it was for me,” the young Stanley said. “I just had to work for it. A lot of kids aren’t surrounded by it at a young age, or they just don’t have the drive or motivation to want it. I wanted to. My father figured out pretty early that I wanted to play, and he helped me achieve what my goal was. I couldn’t have done it without (the support) of my parents and family.”
Stanley said when he was playing ball with the Clinton Lions, before he was even in middle school, he began to hit the ball hard.
“That is when I really started feeling it,” he said. “Then I played in middle school, and I had great coaches, my dad and Mr. (Glenn) Pope, they stayed on us, and by the time I got to high school, it was a no-doubter that I would play. I knew I wanted to play college ball my freshman year of high school. Clinton has a lot of raw talent here — it is hard with such a small town to be seen. I was fortunate that I played summer ball all over, and I was lucky enough to be in a position where I was playing in front of scouts. I was just really at the right place at the right time and had the opportunities to play with a lot of great players. When I was in college, it was the same way. I just took advantage of my opportunities.”
Those opportunities, as well as Stanley’s sheer determination for achieving his goal, has paid off.
“I really didn’t care where I went, I just want to play,” he said. “St. Louis is a great ball club and I have heard a lot of great things about them, so I can’t wait. Mark McGuire is their new hitting coach, so that is a big plus too,” he said, smiling.
When asked about the rare accomplishment of being only the second player from Clinton to be selected in the draft, he smiles somewhat shyly. “It is pretty amazing,” he said. “It is really hard to believe, and even more so that it was my uncle to be the last one. But on the other hand, I have been really lucky. It is not something that I am thinking about ... I try to keep my focus on moving ahead.”
The next move for Stanley will be a visit from a team representative who will negotiate a deal, then it’s off to play in the Cardinal farm system during the summer.
“Me and my father have already looked at some of the minor league schedules and they start playing around the 21st, so it will all begin in a couple of weeks,” he said. “I anticipate playing in the minors for a little while before I get called up; I really hope I do so I can have time to get the feel of playing at that level. But at the same time, I am very excited about it. I feel like this is the right time for me and everything is falling into place for me.”
If there is a piece of advice Stanley has for a young athletes who have dreams of playing in the majors, it is this: “If you want to play, you can,” he said. “Anybody can do it. You just have to want it and work hard to get it. For me, I feel that I was just lucky and took advantage of my opportunities, and it all has worked out. You can never lose focus on what you want.”
The humble professional also said that the support he received over the years was crucial as well.
“I couldn’t have done it without my parents and the people of Clinton,” he said with pride. “I just can’t say enough about having that support behind me and I just want to tell everyone how much it is appreciated.”
Clinton couldn’t be prouder.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or send e-mail to email@example.com.