Landon Stephens took a phone call from Atlanta Braves area scout Jeremy Gordon “the second the clock struck 9” on Sunday morning at his parents’ house in Hamilton. That was the earliest Major League Baseball teams could contact undrafted players.
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Stephens built a relationship with Gordon throughout the spring and didn’t need to ponder his decision. He told the Braves he would sign and accepted their offer.
Stephens could have entered the draft after his junior year but stayed at Miami and earned a degree in finance, and now he’ll get a chance to continue his baseball career at the next level.
“With everything that’s gone on with the coronavirus, the opportunity to say I’m a professional baseball player is a blessing,” Stephens said.
Stephens, who played for the Hamilton West Side All Stars in the Little League World Series in 2010 when he was 12, hit .301 in his Miami career. He ranks third in Miami history with 53 career doubles and is tied for 10th with 11 triples and 10th with 136 RBIs. He made the All-Mid-American Conference First Team in 2019 after hitting .310 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs.
Stephens hit .311 in 15 games this season, which was cut short by the COVID-19 crisis.
Upon signing with the Braves, Stephens wrote on Twitter: “God is so good!” Blessed and thankful to be apart of the Braves. Thank you to everyone who impacted me along the way! The story is still being wrote.”
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Stephens and his agent, Matt Marino, talked to numerous teams throughout the spring, but the Braves were the only team to call him on Sunday. Stephens thinks he came off the board so fast, the other teams knew he was signed.
“I was talking to my cousin the other day,” Stephens said, “and he said it would be awesome to say you were drafted, but if you happen to make it to the big leagues, it sounds a bit cooler to say you were a free agent.”
The most famous former RedHawk currently in the big leagues, Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton, was a 19th-round pick in 2010.
By not getting drafted in the first round Wednesday or in the final four rounds Thursday, Stephens got to choose his organization. He likes the way the Braves develop players and said Atlanta has a top-notch organization.
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“It’s a positive in that sense,” Stephens said. “I got an organization I like that I’m happy to go to. I’m not sitting here hoping I get what I want out of an organization.”
With the status of the Major League Baseball season up in the air and the minor-league season in jeopardy, Stephens doesn’t know what will be the next step for him. He’s heard rumors of players in the Braves organization getting sent to their spring training complex later in the summer.
In the meantime, Stephens will continue to get creative with workouts at home in Hamilton.
“I have a place to hit,” he said. “That’s been good. Continuing to see pitching and being around other players who will continue to push me, that’s my next priority.”
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