Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 27
 
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Christian Staehely fires a pitch in action this spring during his senior season with the Princeton University baseball team. After posting a team-high six wins this spring, Staehely was chosen last month by the Seattle Mariners in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball draft. After a stint in Peoria, Ariz., Staehely is currently pitching for Seattle’s Everett, Wash. short season Class A team where he is 0-0 in three relief appearances with a 5.06 ERA.

Former Princeton Pitching Star Staehely Utilizing College Lessons in Pro Ranks

Bill Alden

Christian Staehely didn’t envision himself as heading to a boot camp environment after graduating from Princeton University last month.

But that is what the former PU baseball star pitcher found when he arrived at the Peoria, Ariz. baseball complex for his first stop in professional baseball after getting selected by the Seattle Mariners in the Major League Baseball draft in early June.

“It’s like the military, I wake up at 5:30 in the morning and I’m in the clubhouse by 6:15,” said Staehely, who was chosen in the 39th round by the Mariners after posting a team-high six wins for Princeton this spring.

“We start a pitching workout at 6:45. People throw bullpens and we do instructional things like bunt coverage and fielding. We have games from 8 to 10 in the morning. I come back and do a lift and I’m out by 1:30.”

While the schedule in Arizona may have been a shock to Staehely’s system, he was happy to have the chance to be in the pro ranks.

“My college career had been so up and down; I didn’t want to pay too much attention to the draft and get too invested in it in case I wasn’t picked,” said Staehely, who has already been promoted to Seattle’s Everett, Wash. short season Class A team where he is 0-0 in three relief appearances with a 5.06 ERA.

“I was on the phone with Steve Miller [fellow PU pitcher and classmate] on the second day of the draft and I hung up. My dad was listening to it on the internet. Steve called back and said did you see that. There was a delay between the TV and the radio and then my dad heard my name called. It was really surreal.”

The 6’3, 215-pound native of Houston, Texas was intrigued to be selected by Seattle.

“My first thought was that it was good to be picked by an exotic team,” said Staehely. “Seattle seems so different than what I have been used to.”

Even if Seattle hadn’t called, Staehely was planning to stick with baseball one way or the other.

“I didn’t have all my chips in the draft, I had decided that I was going to play baseball for a year somewhere,” said Staehely, a psychology major at Princeton.

“I knew if I went to work I wouldn’t come back. My shoulder was in good shape and I felt like I had to take advantage of this. I was either going to play in the independent league or in Europe for the experience of it, if nothing else.”

Early in his Princeton career, it looked like Staehely was on track to be chosen early in the draft.

As a sophomore, the right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA and earned honorable mention All-Ivy League honors. He followed that up by going 5-1 that summer in the highly regarded Cape Cod League.

“I think I liked being the underdog; I was going to be a starter but I was a sophomore and not much was expected from me,” said Staehely, reflecting on his sophomore season.

“I had Erik Stiller to look up to; I thrived on competing with him. Things clicked; I found a rhythm. I did well in the Cape Cod League that summer; I showed that it wasn’t a fluke.”

But Staehely took a step backwards his junior year as he went 0-6 with a 6.20 ERA, finding out late in the season that he was suffering from mono.

“Two weeks before the season, I was tired and lethargic,” recalled Staehely.

“I thought it was just from doing too much and I took two weeks off. When I came back I would do really well in the first inning but then I would run out of gas. I just had nothing after that. I wasn’t training well. I got a sore throat that turned out to be a strep throat. They did a blood test and found that I had had mono for the last six-to-eight weeks.”

Taking a detour to Sweden for the fall semester of his senior year helped get Staehely back on track.

“I was going to Stockholm for the semester; I googled “Stockholm baseball” and found a local club team,” said Staehely, whose mother, Angela, hails from Sweden.

“I sent them an e-mail; I did a paragraph with my background. I just wanted to throw with them; I told them that I was a Swedish citizen and the next thing I knew the Swedish general manager called me and said they wanted to take me to Barcelona for the European championships.”

Although he was struggling with a shoulder injury, Staehely did get into action for Sweden at the competition.

“I was rehabbing most of the time; I started throwing the week before we went,” added Staehely.

“I had to just wing it. I was extremely wild; I was throwing harder than anyone so I was still their No. 1.”

The No. 1 thing the experience in Sweden did for Staehely was to rekindle his affection for baseball.

“The whole Swedish thing let me step back from things,” maintained Staehely.

“I had a bad spring and a bad Cape season. If I had gone back into training at Princeton, I think I would have blown a gasket. The guys in Sweden love the game so much. The game is not popular there so they don’t get much attention. Only 1000 people play it; it’s a little bit more romantic.”

The revitalized Staehely gained strength as he went through his senior campaign.

“I wasn’t the sharpest thing but with every start I got stronger,” said Staehely, who went 6-2 last spring with a 4.91 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 55 innings.

“I had back-to-back nine inning games in my last two starts, I had never done that before even in my sophomore year.”

As Staehely makes his way through pro ball, he is benefitting from the lessons he learned from his rollercoaster ride in college.

“There are people here straight out of high school,” said Staehely, who went 12-14 overall in his Princeton career.

“I was not good enough at that stage and, even if I was, I wasn’t ready for this. You learn to be independent in college, more driven. You play in front of more people; you deal with a lot of different things.”

Staehely plans to stick with the baseball thing for a while. “I have no set timetable,” asserted Staehely. “If I feel I am as good or have the potential to be as good as the other guys around me, I’ll keep playing.”

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