Former Middle Tennessee baseball player Ryan Stephens has signed a minor league free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies and has reported early to spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Stephens, a four-year starter for the Blue Raiders, had an individual workout with the Rockies organization last week. Shortly after the workout, Stephens was signed.
“It shows hard work pays off,” said Stephens, who was undrafted following his senior year at Middle Tennessee in 2014. “It is a dream come true. I am just blessed and humbled by the fact that I am getting to do it.”
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Jim McGuire said Stephens’ resiliency fueled the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“I’m very happy and very proud for Ryan Stephens,” McGuire said. “He just never gave up on his dream to have an opportunity to play professional baseball. The Major League Draft didn’t work out and he wasn’t signed as a free agent last year but he was very resilient. He never gave up and he worked out all winter. As things started to progress Ryan got his opportunity to show what he could do and it worked out.”
Position players report to spring training March 13 but Stephens was asked to report early in order to get additional reps.
“I haven’t had those reps like other guys so I want to get as many as I can,” said Stephens, who played high school baseball at Riverdale in Murfreesboro. “I feel like I have put in the work, and I have had the patience. It didn’t work out for me in the draft or free agency (after the 2014 season), but I plugged away and stayed in shape and something good has come out of it.”
Stephens worked with Middle Tennessee’s baseball program as he completed his degree in the fall. He spent the winter working out with former Blue Raiders in professional baseball, as well as Houston Astros outfielder Alex Presley.
Colorado Rockies catcher Michael McKenry, a former Blue Raider standout, put in a word for Stephens and helped get the workout scheduled.
“I was hoping for something when I got the workout,” said Stephens, who also recently worked out with the Texas Rangers organization. “(McKenry) put in a good work for me, and I am so appreciative of him for the opportunity.”
McKenry put in a word, but Stephens had to do the work.
Once given an opportunity the former Middle Tennessee standout impressed.
Stephens, who holds the Middle Tennessee record for consecutive games started with 184, is also eighth all-time in games played with 217 and sixth all-time with nine triples. He was a career .277 hitter and capped his four-year with 98 RBI, 14 home runs, nine triples, 29 doubles and he stole 26 bases while getting thrown out just six times. Stephens had just 121 strikeouts in 760 plate appearances.
“Ryan was a great player for us,” McGuire said. “He was a four-year starter and that doesn’t happen a lot. He is dedicated. The door is open and he has to make the most of it. Ryan will have an opportunity to stick with it. His work ethic will allow for that.”