A move made by Rockhurst University’s baseball team also has paid dividends for the Blue Springs Rod’s Sports Athletics.
David Stober had been the A’s shortstop in American Legion ball for three seasons and played that position for the Blue Springs High School team. But upon his arrival at Rockhurst in the fall, some coaches thought center field might be a better spot for him.
“They had recruited a couple shortstops, and they had a returning guy,” Stober said. “They moved me to outfield, and it was a pretty good transition. I had played outfield a little my sophomore year in high school.
“It’s a whole different experience. It’s not as demanding as shortstop was. You can let it loose in the outfield a little. You’ve just got to be fast enough to track it down. I haven’t had any problems. The more you play there, the better jumps you get, and I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
At Rockhurst this spring Stober had a .974 fielding percentage and just three errors in 117 chances in center field. When he returned to the A’s in May, manager Mike Rooney and his staff decided to leave him there.
“We thought it best to keep him in outfield and let him hone his skills,” Rooney said. “Dillon Jackson did a good job for the high school (at shortstop) and thought he could play there. David will do whatever you ask him to do.
“He’s a tremendous center fielder, but David’s just a talented individual. He’s got a great arm and has tremendous speed, so he covers a lot of area, gets to gaps and comes up with a lot of catches, and he has good instincts.”
With Stober in center field and Jackson at shortstop, the A’s defense has been a big reason they have a 38-10 record heading into this week’s Zone 2 Tournament in Sedalia.
“Dillon, he’s done an excellent job at short,” said Stober, who still plays some shortstop when Jackson pitches. “Defensively as a team we’re pretty solid all around.”
Rooney said it’s amazing how quickly Stober embraced his new position and that the move has worked well all around.
“It enabled us to play another young man at shortstop,” he said. “It’s worked out perfect, and it’s given David chance to keep working on his skills.”
Stober said he’s had an “all right” season at the plate as he’s tried to employ the altered swing he got at Rockhurst, where he hit .268 in 47 games, with two home runs, 17 RBIs and a team-high 30 runs scored.
“It’s a been a learning experience, for sure,” he said. “They changed my swing ... changed my stance, trying to add a little power.”
His numbers with the A’s suggest more than “all right.” His .367 batting average his third-best on the team, 22 of his 58 hits have gone for extra bases, and he’s batted in 43 runs and scored a team-high 54.
On the mound Stober’s been arguably the Athletics' best pitcher, with an 8-0 record, three saves and a 1.40 earned run average in 55 innings. Opponents have hit just .168 against him, and he’s struck out 66 batters and walked just eight.
“I like it a lot,” Stober said of pitching. “I might try it if they need me at Rockhurst, but I don’t know. It’s been a lot of fun this season with the A’s.”
“He’s an outstanding pitcher – just a good, solid all-around athlete,” Rooney said. “We’re fortunate to have him. He’s a great individual.
“The kids look up to him, he’s a good leader and you never hear him gripe or complain.”
The A’s edged Blue Springs Legion rival Post 499 Fike by a game for the Zone 2 East Division regular season title, but Sedalia Post 642 beat the A’s twice Sunday to claim the Zone 2 East district tournament and earn one of the two first-round byes for the Zone 2 Tournament that begins today in Sedalia. The A's open at 5 p.m. today against Independence Post 21 and the winner plays the top-seeded Lee's Summit Outlaws at 10 a.m. Friday.
Stober said he believes the A’s are quite capable of getting back to form and winning the tournament to make a repeat trip to the State American Legion Tournament.
“Last weekend we struggled because we were hitting a lot of balls in the air,” he said. “We’ve just to got to keep the ball more on the ground and hit more line drives. I think our team will hit with any other there.”
Rooney said his players must have better approaches if they’re going to hit better this weekend.
“We’ve got to go back to the way we were swinging the bats a few weeks ago,” he said. “Right now, we’re swinging at a lot of pitches we shouldn’t be. We’ve handled hard-throwing pitchers extremely well this year, but when we have pitchers with a lot of breaking stuff we haven’t shown a lot of patience.
“Our pitching’s been solid all year long, and our defense, with the exception of one game Sunday has been outstanding. It’s up to the kids to do what they need to do at the plate.”