Chad Hangs with BaseballSeptember 12, 2011
Pursue his passion on the diamond or on ice?
“I played everything,” said Stang, who just completed his first season of Class A baseball with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. “Shortly after I learned how to walk, I was skating. I just split the season, half was hockey, half was baseball. My dad (Greg) was a very superb athlete, originally from Alberta and a big hockey town, and he played both as well.”
Like father, like son, Chad rolled from one season to the next, trading skates for spikes, a stick for a bat. But when he turned 16, his future was in front of him with only one road to follow.
“I was really good at hockey but just wasn’t getting the breaks that I needed to go further,” said Stang. “Baseball, I did, making the (Canadian) Junior National team and other opportunities that came to me. That’s what I decided to do, and fulfill by dreams as a kid to play professional baseball.”
Before the Milwaukee Brewers granted his wish by selecting Stang with an 8th round draft pick in 2009, Stang had to face another crossroads decision by stepping away from a college scholarship to play at Louisiana State.
“So far in my life that was the toughest decision I had to make,” said Stang. “Because with LSU, all you’ve got to do is say the name and people know. It’s a superb baseball program and when I went there I was just blown away and they were coming off a National Championship the year before, so it was really tempting. But I got a good opportunity in the draft and that’s kind of where my heart took me.”
No matter the location, Stang got noticed for exhibiting fleet feet. Credit his former sport for helping him blaze a trail on the base paths.
“Hockey really helped me with my speed because I was fast on skates and it kind of turned over onto baseball,” said Stang. “When I was younger they meshed because my muscles were developing. Hockey is a totally different muscle group than baseball but you still need the mass muscles in my legs.
“I was always in shape for baseball season, but as a kid, I used to only be able to focus on one sport at a time, so that’s why I fell behind in hockey at times. Everyone else was playing summer hockey and I was playing baseball. But I couldn’t ask for anything more, I loved playing sports.”
While Stang admits he misses the scene on ice, his numbers prior to his selection by Milwaukee point out he chose the proper profession, winning a league batting title in high school in 2007, then shuttling off to Midland Community College in Texas for two more years of collegiate seasoning. Following draft day, Stang got his fast feet wet in 2009 playing 52 games with the Brewers rookie league team in Helena.
Then along came 2010…
“It was the last game of spring training, and I started switch hitting the year before,” recalled Stang. “I was doing really well, played in a couple big league games and got some hits left-handed and I thought this might work out for me. But the last game, I was in the box, swung, and my foot got stuck at the plate. I had a torn meniscus which was a little bit of a downer having to miss six weeks of the season.”
Minimal time lost eventually turned into an imploded season. Stang took his injury in stride and was on the threshold of getting his bearings back when a more daunting hurdle surfaced.
“It was my fifth rehab game and I swung pretty good on an inside pitch and I tore my labrum,” said Stang. “I knew something was wrong because my arm just went numb. After the surgery it was like a hit to the heart because I knew I was done for the rest of the season, which was tough.”
Determined to forge forward, Stang kicked off his 2011 campaign without a team, remaining in extended spring training to ensure his right shoulder was sound. When he got the green light to join the Timber Rattlers on June 14th, the player with all that speed needed to get himself back up to speed.
“It took me awhile when I first got here and started playing, the first few diving plays I made in the outfield my arm felt a little sore because I hadn’t done it in over a year,” said Stang. “But after that, I just knew I could go out and just play and if something happens, it happens. But that’s way in the back of my mind. It took me awhile to get back to where I wanted to be aggressive in the outfield but once you get there, it’s tons of fun and you enjoy the game of baseball.”
Sitting on the sidelines for a season never resembled fun for Stang, but it did allow him space to grow his mind while the rest of his body heeled.
“It (injury) has shown me a totally different side of baseball and the mentality you have to have to get through the drag and the grind,” said Stang. “Now my arm is stronger than when I came here, and that was one thing the Brewers were worried about, to see if it was going to come back better or worse. It’s even better than when I was drafted, and now I’m healthy and taking a lot of positives out of this season.”
The offseason will allow Stang to look back and relish a completed year in Appleton without incident. It will also clear time on his calendar to pursue his many off the field passions.
“Love it…I grew up around it with a family of six and everyone was busy at different times so there used to be days I had to cook and started to like it.”
A vegetarian until he was 12 years old, Stang discovered different ways to create creative cuisine. And if he was ever summoned to manufacture a meal for his teammates?
“We have pasta and chicken every day, so that’s a tough one,” said Stang. “Steak and potatoes and a veggie would be the best for us right now because we don’t get that a lot…never cooked for that many guys before but it’s definitely doable, if I had some help.”
There’s tinkering to be done on his 1957 Volkswagen Beatle. Chad’s older brother Cory was into “Bugs” and helped Chad track one down in Arizona…restored in 1978 and painted baby blue by the former owner.
“Good brother bonding time,” said Stang.
There’s also the artistic side of Chadwin (his real first name, to fall in line with his other “C” member siblings Cory, Candace and Chelsea).
“I drew a lot in high school, and my brother was a big drawer and was sort of my inspiration and hero growing up,” said Stang. “He did it, was really good at it, so I started doing it.
Downtime with a sketch pad helps Stang “get away from everything,” but never so far off from the real world that his imagination runs away with his thoughts.
“I’m not really big into creating images, I like to duplicate things I see and enjoy,” said Stang. “I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to drawing…I want it to look just like it really looks.”
Precisely the way Chad Stang draws up his plans for a future in baseball. His sport of choice has seen its share of ups and downs. Hardly perfect, but isn’t that what a fresh canvas is for?
“The majority of guys in baseball are perfectionists because you get into a routine, find what works for you and stick with it,” said Stang. “That’s what you perfect is that routine every day. That’s what my goal is, to be a perfectionist. You may not become one now, but you want to try to get there someday. Because in a game, when that opportunity comes, you want to be perfect.”