Minor League Veteran’s PEBA Dreams Snuffed Out

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Updated: July 30, 2014

NAMPA, IDAHO – Nine years. 831 games. 2,152 at bats. Lots of ups, but even more downs. It’s been a long time since Gerald Stone got a small taste of life in PEBA in 2011 with the New Jersey Hitmen.

For now, the 33-year-old minor league veteran’s chances of returning to his long-time dream of a PEBA career – at least with the Kalamazoo Badgers – are vanished.

Stone was one of a number of players let go by Kalamazoo in a rash of roster moves on June 14.

“It is what it is and to a certain degree it’s something you expect when you’re a 33-year-old playing single A ball,” a choked up Stone said in the dressing room of the Nampa Moccasins, after learning he had been released. “I have been thankful to get the opportunity with the Badgers organization.”

Stone has been the exact definition of an organizational filler type player for the Badgers, since signing with the team as a minor league free agent in 2015.

With the latest rash of roster moves, have some minor league journeymen like Gerald Stone taken their last bus ride?

He has played at all levels of Kalamazoo’s minor league system over the past six seasons, moving up as opportunities presented themselves, moving back down as holes needed to be filled at lower levels.

“Life in the minor leagues is a grind, but in the back of your head you’re still that boy chasing that dream and you hope it’s going to work out for you,” Stone said. “Unfortunately it just hasn’t happened here in Kalamazoo.”

Stone thought he might get his big break with Kalamazoo in 2016, when with the Grand Rapids Rafters AAA club, he hit .263/.374/.477 over 285 at bats, with 12 home runs.

The call to the show never came.

Gerald Stone got a taste of PEBA in 2011, but the long-time veteran will likely never get back.

Stone spent the next two seasons splitting time between AA and AAA and never has enjoyed another offensive season quite as successful, except perhaps this season. However, that was at single A ball – hardly where someone with big league aspirations wants to be.

“You go in to work ever day and work hard and hope someone is noticing, that’s all you can do,” he said.

It wasn’t all bad though. Stone was a part of the 2017 and 2018 Grand Rapids squads that won back to back AAA championships.

“From Little League to PEBA, it doesn’t matter what level you are, winning a championship is always a special moment,” Stone said. “We had some great teams and some real chemistry in Grand Rapids and I’m going to miss a lot my teammates.”

A lot of Stone’s current and former teammates are stuck looking for work right along with him. As part of the new short-season A roster rules requiring players in that league be only 23 and younger, many long-time organizational filler type players were cut loose in the past week. The Badgers released a total of 18 players.

Stone was selected in the 81st round, 1941st overall, in the 2007 inaugural draft by New Jersey, then called the Gothic Knights.

Such a low draft position gives clear indication that not much was thought about the future prospects of Stone’s professional baseball career. But nevertheless, he relied on his defensive skills, versatility and his ability to draw a walk, to work his way up the minor league levels.

He was promoted to PEBA briefly with New Jersey in 2011, but it wasn’t Stone’s storybook ending.

“I’ll never forget my first day in the big leagues, it was probably one of the happiest days of my life. Unfortunately it didn’t go to smoothly after that,” he said.

Then only 24 years old, Stone appeared in 36 games and got 107 major league at bats, leading to an abysmal .159/.217/.243 slash line, with 41 strikeouts and only one home run.

“I still have the ball,” Stone said of his lone PEBA career home run, a slight twinkle appearing in his eye. “No matter what becomes of my baseball career and no matter what anyone wants to say about me, they can never take that away from me. Not many people in the world can say they’ve hit a home run at the highest level in baseball. It’s a memory I’ll keep with me forever.”

The Badgers front office didn’t have too much to say about Stone’s release, perhaps further proving just how far down the depth chart this journeyman was. A simple press release was issued to media with a list of names of players that had been released, and when questioned further on it, opinionated Badgers owner Don O’Quinn didn’t have a whole lot to say.

“Gerald Stone? Hmmm, yeah he is a good guy and a good team player, but it’s just business,” he said. “Life goes on, right? Baseball is tough, we wish Gerald and everyone else the best.”

For now, the prospects of any future baseball memories with Stone appear dim. At 33 years of age, it seems unlikely that any other PEBA team would want to take a chance on the journeyman minor leaguer, who seems more likely to fade into obscurity, or perhaps into a lower-tier professional league.

“I don’t know what’s next for me when it comes to baseball. I’m just going to go home and spend some time with my family and we can figure it out from there,” he said. “Professional baseball is all I have known for the past 13 years of my life, it’s not going to be easy to walk away.”

One thing Stone won’t miss, is the notoriously long bus rides and the meager pay that accompanies life in the minors.

“My wife’s a lawyer, that’s probably about the only reason I’ve been able to chase my dreams for so long,” he said, noting he’s looking forward to getting to spend more time with his five-year-old son, Max. “I certainly haven’t been bringing in the big bucks playing minor league baseball for all these years.”

Life in the minor leagues is no doubt a grind and that grind has come to an end for journeyman Gerald Stone and many others like him, with dreams going unfulfilled. As the saying goes, if you’ve got a jersey on your back, you’ve got a chance.

Whether it was Grand Rapids, Hamilton, Nampa or Ketchikan, Stone has donned a variety of jerseys over the past few years, but never has gotten the opportunity to put on another one emblazoned with the PEBA emblem.

And maybe never will.