In the world of baseball, Lee Stoppelman is a fast learner.
MCC-Longview Lakers Baseball Coach Clint Culbertson easily places this former player in that category. Culbertson said Stoppelman, now a professional in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, recently advanced from AA to AAA in quick succession.
Culbertson said Stoppelman could easily make a leap from this, the final stop in the minors, to the major league Cardinals pitching mound.
“He’s an injury away from being called up,” Culbertson said of the left-handed pitcher.
Stoppelman set the pace for his recent success the first time Culbertson watched him throw at try-outs. He was a “walk-on” for the Lakers, meaning he wasn’t actively recruited and had no scholarship when he arrived at Longview in 2009. The surprises continued. Stoppelman started his Lakers play throwing about 81 miles per hour, but, quickly increased his velocity to 89 per hour after adding 30 pounds of muscle between his freshman and sophomore years.
“He’s got his act together,” Culbertson said, summing up his former player’s work ethic and dedication. He added that Stoppelman also plays a good mental game. “He’s a guy that just doesn’t get rattled.”
The 23-year-old’s recent accomplishments don’t stop at advancing from AA to AAA. In addition, Stoppelman recently was named Minor League Player of the Month. That announcement followed a placement on the roster of the prestigious fall league, a spot reserved for each team’s top prospects, a move that Stoppelman is proud of.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “If you play well there, they’ll take a good, strong look at you [for major league play].”
The Pleasant Hill High School graduate said baseball has always been a big influence in his life, going back to tee-ball. But, Stoppelman, who went on to play for the University of Central Missouri after leaving MCC, is an all-around athlete and also played high school basketball and football. He was playing baseball for UCM when he was drafted by the Cardinals in the 24th round.
In Culbertson’s words, for Stoppelman, “I’d suspect there’s more good things to come.”