By Andi Enns
May 18, 2012
Number 23 walked with his team toward the clubhouse, everybody’s faces hidden under the brims of their caps pulled down tight. A small crowd had gathered to the side, including a young boy jumping up and down. As his teammates trudged up the stairs after their defeat against the New Jersey Jackals, Beau Stoker flashed a huge grin and ran to the top of the grassy hill to meet his crowd.
“Give Daddy a hug for his first home run,” a slender woman said.
Stoker scooped the child up and handed him a baseball.
“Pretty cool, right?” he said, as the flash from his parent’s point-and-shoot camera lit up the area. “Will you come back tomorrow?”
Stoker, a Kansas City T-Bones batsman, hit a home run during the third inning at the home opener. Pitching coach Andy Shipman said 21-year-old Stoker has an unusual story for pro baseball.
“He came to us after not playing for years,” Shipman said. “It’s crazy. This never happens.”
Stoker played until 2009 in high school, then one year at Missouri State University. When his now-wife announced her pregnancy, Stoker said he decided to prioritize his family over his favorite game.
“I didn’t think I’d get back into baseball,” Stoker said. “I’ve been working, and I started going to school again to be a firefighter. I just put my family first.”
And that’s how it stayed for three years. In February, Stoker said his wife’s uncle casually mentioned the upcoming Kansas City T-Bones tryouts and told Stoker he should go for it.
“I thought about it all night after he told me,” Stoker said. “So, in the morning, I called my old high school coach.”
He trained with his Bishop Ward High School coach, Dennis Hurla, for weeks – losing 30 pounds in the process – then showed up for the T-Bones open tryouts last month. He competed against 84 other men for a spot on the minor league team ranked second in the 64-team league.
“This is all so crazy,” Stoker said. “I mean, a few weeks ago I was trying out. And tonight I hit a home run.”
Stoker said he loves working with the coaches – many of them veterans from the major league, like first base coach Frank White, a member of the Royals Hall of Fame.
“I love giving back to the kids,” said White. “I like to help them get better.”
White said he is enjoying his first season with the T-Bones.
“It’s a lot more relaxed than the Royals,” White said. “We still want to win, but there’s a lot less pressure.”
Even as the only new guy of the season, Stoker said he’s had no trouble fitting in with the team, and he considers them to be his friends.
“My all-time favorite thing about the T-Bones is we play in Kansas City. This is my hometown, and I could not be more honored to play for them,” Stoker said. “I’ve known these fans all my life. It’s so great to play here. I’m at a loss for words.”