Yet another Valley League alumnus has made his major league debut! This time, it’s former Covington Lumberjack (2007) Stephen Cardullo, who has a story worth telling.
Stephen was a 24th round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He then spent two seasons in Missoula of the Pioneer League (a rookie league) before the ‘Backs released him in September of 2011. In 2011, Cardullo hit 288/372/525 in 219 at-bats, so you could say, brilliant reader, that Arizona was a bit hasty.
He didn’t give up, though: Stephen proceeded to play in the Independent Leagues for four seasons, playing in places like Florence, Kentucky (Florence Freedom) and Pomona, New York (Rockland Boulders). He produced at each stop, putting up a collective 291/363/435 in 1,383 at-bats over the four years.
This spring, Stephen was given a shot in spring training by the Colorado Rockies, and he made the most of it, impressing the Rockies enough that they sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque to start the minor league season. Stephen did what he does- he hit. In 115 games and 406 at-bats, he hit 308/367/522, with 26 doubles, 5 triples, 17 home runs, 71 runs scored, 72 RBIs, and 37 walks against 58 strikeouts.
So on August 26th, the Rockies purchased his contract, bringing him to the major leagues. He made his debut that night in Washington, going 0-3 with a walk. He went 0-1 the next night, but got his first major league hit on August 29 against the Dodgers in Colorado.
Then came last night, which, coincidentally, was Stephen’s 29th birthday. In game one of the doubleheader against the Dodgers, Stephen hit a pinch-hit solo home run in the 7th inning. In game two, for an encore, he hit a grand slam in the first inning… and added a single later on. As far as birthday presents go, this might be his best ever.
So Stephen joins Tyler White (Haymarket 2010), Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011), Ashur Tolliver (Harrisonburg 2007), Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008), and Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008) as former Valley Leaguers making their mlb debut in 2016!
I decided to add this later- Baseball America sends an email to my inbox every day with information on prospects. Today, they included a writeup on Cardullo, with some extra info. Here it is:
Cardullo was a first-team college All-American choice by BA as a shortstop for Florida State in 2009, but went undrafted that year and didn’t get picked until the 24th round the following year by the Diamondbacks. After two seasons in Rookie ball, he was released and hooked on in independent ball, first in the Frontier League and then in the Cam-Am League. A .928 OPS for Rockland last season drew the Rockies’ attention and they signed him, now as a first baseman. Cardullo finally reached the majors, and on Wednesday, his 29th birthday, hit two homers in a doubleheader, including a grand slam, in a split with the Dodgers. Cardullo is the fifth player since 2000 to hit his first career homer on his birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.