No matter what position he’ll play, C.J. Stubbs eager to get on USC field
C.J. Stubbs has a Plan B. He also has a Plan A, C and D. He just doesn’t know which one is which yet.
The former Torrey Pines High baseball standout is headed to USC this fall with aspirations of playing professionally.
But will it be as a catcher, the position for which the Trojans originally recruited him? Or as a pitcher, a position he just picked up ahead of his junior year and has excelled at ever since?
Corner infield and outfield positions are possibilities too he’s been preparing for over the summer.
“Honestly,” he said, “I have no idea.”
The only sure thing is that Stubbs wants to play and is open to all possibilities. His focus right now is to compete for a starting position in an intensely competitive program.
“Nobody gets drafted from the bench,” Stubbs said.
He hopes to someday follow the footsteps of his brother, Garrett Stubbs, also a former Torrey Pines standout who went on to play at USC and earlier this year was drafted by the Houston Astros in the eighth round of the June draft. Garrett Stubbs was drafted as a catcher after being named the recipient of this year’s Johnny Bench Award, presented to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate catcher.
The Stubbs brothers are different players with different body types. C.J., who is 6-foot-2, is four inches taller than his brother.
C.J. Stubbs made his mark as an ultra-intense competitor whose playing style rubbed off on teammates.
“In the short time I’ve been a baseball coach, he’s the most unique player that I’ve seen,” Torrey Pines coach Kirk McCaskill said. “He brought an energy and a passion to the field every day. Winter, spring, fall summer, he’s a high-energy, high passion, competitor. I couldn’t wait for him to walk through the gates every day.”
It’s a quality Stubbs said he’s had as long as he can remember.
“It’s been in my blood my whole life,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to win, and I knew that by pushing the other kids on the team and being a leader and trying improve our team would give us our best chance at winning, which selfishly will help me win.”
Stubbs earlier this year helped the Falcons win their first Palomar League championship in three years.
He was among the team’s leading hitters, batting .306 (33 for 108) with 11 extra-base hits including two homers.
He also served notice with his arm. Stubbs went 6-4 with a 1.57 ERA in 11 starts. He pitched complete games in all five appearances in league play, allowing just one earned run over that stretch. Over the season, he recorded 57 strikeouts and allowed 49 hits and 11 walks over 67 innings.
Not bad for a pitcher who hadn’t been on the mound since Little League when he made his varsity pitching debut as a junior last year.
Stubbs has one of the team’s stronger arms and petitioned coaches to give him a look.
“So one day (McCaskill) said, ‘Let’s give it a shot. Let’s throw a couple (of bullpen sessions) this week and see how we like it.’
“Next thing you know I’m pitching once a week; six innings, seven innings. I give all the credit to Coach McCaskill. I don’t know if I would have ever gotten back on the mound without his help.”
Stubbs’ best pitch is a slider he developed when he was 12. He also throws a fastball and a changeup.
“As a kid I always tried to throw a 12-to-6 (o’clock curveball), but my hand wasn’t big enough for the ball. Even today, I try to throw a 12-to-6 and it comes out as a slider.
“Mentally, I think 12-to-6, but the movement is a slider. If I try to throw a slider it’s going to hang, and a good hitter’s going to hit it.”
More often than not, hitters have been missing Stubbs’ pitches.
And his success on the mound has fueled speculation that he could pitch at USC.
“It’ll be really interesting to see what they do with him up there,” McCaskill said. “I don’t think the catcher-pitcher combination works well in college. I’m really interested to see what they’re going to do.”
For his part, Stubbs isn’t so quick to write off the idea.
“Hey, there’s always a first for everything,” he said. “I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to get me in the lineup.”
But he’s mindful that going forward, there are more opportunities — especially at the professional level — for catchers than for pitchers, especially right-handers such as he.
“I love both positions so much, anything to get me in that lineup would be a dream come true,” he said. “Whether it’s pitching or catching, just being on the field is what I love to do.”
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