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  • Minnesota Made: Cold Spring’s Joey Stock


    Theo Tollefson

    Minnesota baseball is a strong community where everyone who gets the chance to play professionally is cheered on by fans all across the state; especially those from the smaller high schools. One of the newest professional ballplayers is from St. John's Prep in Collegeville, Minnesota. His name is Joey Stock, and he is a pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system. Get to know more about him. 

    Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson

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    Everything was ready to go for Joey Stock to move from Cold Spring, Minnesota, to Wisconsin on August 27, 2020. He was set to begin the fall semester at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to start working on his master's degree in Business Communications . This was the day before he would be taking a seven-hour drive to further his career in higher education and have a chance to play with the UW-Milwaukee baseball team in the spring. Then the Boston Red Sox gave Stock a call that day and offered him a deal to become a professional athlete.

    "I remember like it was yesterday. It's something I'll probably never forget," recalled Stock. 

    The news was not as surprising as the timing of the call from the Red Sox. A week prior, once the Northwoods League's 2020 season concluded, Stock had been given notice by his manager for the St. Cloud Rox that the Red Sox still saw talent in him worth signing.

    "As I'm literally driving off from the ballpark, my manager stopped me and asked, 'Hey, are you still entertaining any big league contracts? And I said, 'Yeah, I probably would,' and he told me that Boston's interested and to keep my phone nearby. Sure enough, a couple of days later, their head scout called me saying, 'Hey, we like you. We like what we see. We want to fly you out here to Boston to do some physicals and just make sure everything's okay.'”

    A couple of days after flying to Boston where the Red Sox had made their signing of Stock official, the news spread quickly across Central Minnesota. 

    "That was one of the coolest days of my life. With all of the congratulatory text messages, phone calls, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram messages, that I got from people. Some I hadn't seen in 10 years that somehow found out. It just spread like wildfire. I didn't put my phone down. I'm answering emails, phone calls, texts, voicemails. The support that I got from the entire central Minnesota community was freakin' unbelievable," said Stock. 

    Prior to graduating from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, in May of 2020. Stock had received a couple of offers from MLB teams but turned them down, wanting to complete his undergraduate degree before taking a chance as a professional ballplayer. 

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, Stock had been scouted by the Red Sox as the Johnnie's baseball team prepared for the 2020 season. Stock shared that the team was set up to be one of the best he ever played on but couldn't get the season rolling due to the pandemic. 

    "We had a really good team at St. John's, my senior class. Seven of the nine guys that started on the field, including myself, were seniors. We had an unbelievably good freshman class coming in with pitchers; we had a lot of talent, a lot of experience, and a lot of depth. We were ranked in the top 25 that year to start, and we took that as kind of an insult. We thought we were a heck of a lot better than that. We were ready to prove ourselves to the league, then we never got to play," said Stock.

    Stock had recently reunited with a good number of his former teammates at St. John's, and they had the chance to reminisce on what could have happened if they had a full season of college ball in 2020.

    "All of us still haven't really gotten over not being able to play. We put St John's on the map because we truly knew what we had, and we were ready to prove it to the entire country, and we just never got the chance to. That's why I turned down opportunities to sign before graduating, and I don't regret that at all," said Stock.

    Having signed with the Red Sox in late August of 2020, Stock could not join any of the Minor League teams or camps with the minor-league baseball  season canceled by their parent, Major League Baseball. 

    Stock arrived at the Red Sox spring training complex in Fort Myers in February of 2021, and when he did, the reality of starting his professional career hit him almost immediately. 

    “When I got to Fort Myers, the feeling that hit me was overwhelming. I'll be honest. You're around so many talented guys, and they all know what's going on.” 

    Stock continued , "A lot of them have been through at least one instructional league where they have been brought into what spring training is going to be like. I'm coming in wide-eyed. I didn't know about the facility. I didn't know where all the other fields were outside of the facility. I didn't really know a whole lot. Luckily for me, I had a roommate that had been around professional baseball for a very long time. I was able to bounce ideas off of him and just get his stories on spring training experiences because he had been to plenty of them." 

    Stock's spring training roommate Zach Kelly began his professional career in 2017 with the Oakland Athletics organization and spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Kelly, like Stock, entered his first spring training with the Red Sox in 2021 but quickly became one of many mentors to Stock to help him adjust to the minor-league baseball lifestyle. 

    Stock spoke more on Kelly, "He is a Division II guy from South Carolina and didn't sign for very much money. I'm a Division III guy. We were both undrafted free agents, and so he's a guy that you definitely want to root for. He had a great year. He was in Portland with the Sea Dogs. Then halfway through the summer, Zach got called up to Triple AAA, and from there, he's a phone call away from the Red Sox."

    The organization was welcoming and helpful for Stock's adjustment into professional baseball. Coaches and players at all levels of the organization and additional staff were very approachable for Stock whenever he had any questions, comments, or concerns. 

    The first day in the clubhouse for Spring Training was another surreal moment for Stock of realizing where he was. He was taking his first steps into becoming a major-league  pitcher, and when the Red Sox jersey with his name on the back was given to him, it topped many moments for him in 2021. 

    "One of my favorite moments was seeing my jersey and my last name on it. You know, whether you're Chris Sale, Ryan Brasier, or myself, you're wearing the same jersey for Spring Training. That was really cool. And then again, to be able to see Stock right there with the Boston Red Sox font on the back of your jersey, it was really freaking cool," said Stock.

    Appropriately, Stock's professional debut was against his home state's FCL affiliate, the Twins. Although his debut was not how he hoped it would go, it was still an excellent experience for Stock to start his career against the affiliate of a team he often watched growing up. 

    Stock and his older brother Jake, along with their cousins who also lived in Cold Spring as kids, did not grow up with cable in their households. This made their grandma Joyce and grandpa Dick Stock’s house the place to go to watch Joey’s favorite Twins growing up, Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan. One of Stock’s favorite memories from watching Twins  games at grandma and grandpa Stock’s was the iconic game 163 of 2009 when the Twins beat the Tigers in extra innings to win the division. 

    “I got to stay up really late watching that one in my grandparents' house. That was a fun game watching Alexi Casilla hit the walk off to win it for the Twins,” recalled Stock.

    Going into 2022, Stock has a few goals for himself. He currently has two pitches in his arsenal that may be close to being Major League ready; his fastball and curveball. Stock says that a third pitch will need to come into plan sometime this year but wants to build more speed into his fastball and command with his curveball before adding that third pitch. 

    "I'd say the biggest goal for me right now is to get to Double-A as soon as possible. Obviously, the goal is to play at its highest level, but you gotta take it in stride. What I'm shooting for this season is Greenville, South Carolina, which is our High A affiliate. From what I've seen with professional baseball, especially with the Red Sox, the jump from Single-A to Double-A is the biggest jump in the minors. My goal is to get to Greenville this year, spend the whole year there and continue to strive and continue to keep doing what I did where our pitching staff, including myself, is just throwing strikes. We're not pitching to contact. We're tunneling our pitches and just making the most of our opportunities," said Stock. 

    Stock isn't the first professional athlete from Cold Spring, Minnesota. Eric Decker played in the NFL for eight seasons from 2010-2017. He was drafted by the Twins but wen to the University of Minnesota where he played baseball and football. Some may remember shortstop Steve Huls who played for the Gophers and then spend five seasons in the Twins minor leagues. Justin Stommes played basketball at East Carolina before playing professional basketball in Europe. Stock hopes to become the first MLB player from his hometown, and to represent Minnesota baseball well as he journeys through the minors during 2022. With the mentorship and great organizational care the Red Sox show to their minor leaguers, Stock is confident he is with the right team currently to make that dream come true.

     

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    Fantastic story, Theo.  I think you captured the joy of a young athlete experiencing professional baseball for the first time beautifully.  To me, these type of stories are what makes baseball such a great sport--kids from all backgrounds, all levels of amateur play, all parts of the world--chasing their dreams and experiencing the thrill of putting on the jersey.  I will follow this young man closely.  I wish him nothing but success.

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    8 hours ago, RJA said:

    Fantastic story, Theo.  I think you captured the joy of a young athlete experiencing professional baseball for the first time beautifully.  To me, these type of stories are what makes baseball such a great sport--kids from all backgrounds, all levels of amateur play, all parts of the world--chasing their dreams and experiencing the thrill of putting on the jersey.  I will follow this young man closely.  I wish him nothing but success.

    Thank you for the kind feedback! I'm glad I could help you find another Minnesota born professional ballplayer to root for. I am excited to see what Joey does for 2022 in the Red Sox organization. 

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