Upon Further Review: Down-to-earth Stetter always a quick call away

When your phone rings and it’s a former major leaguer on the line, it’s typically good to be ready.

I wasn’t.

Driving back from northern Indiana the Monday after Easter, my phone buzzed. Mitch Stetter, Line 1.

Stetter was supposed to call sometime that day, though I wasn’t exactly sure when. I had my tape recorder at the ready to conduct an interview with the Huntingburg native and L.A. Angels Triple-A pitcher if need be. While trying to navigate the traffic in the State Road 37 abyss between Martinsville and Bloomington, I fumbled for my recorder while figuring I’d have to try and pull off the ol’ interview-at-65-mph over speaker phone and into the recorder.

I asked Stetter for just one second to get situated, explaining that I was driving home from the holidays and ohmygosh I’m so sorry but this will just take a second and I can still pull off the interview and give me one more second and I’ll be ready for you.

“No problem,” he assured. “I can give you a call a little later.”

Mitch Stetter, the most media-friendly person and down-to-earth pro athlete, maybe ever.

He responds to emails faster than some coworkers. He often replies to text messages with more promptness than friends. When he didn’t respond to a text message within a few days near the end of spring training this year, I surmised that his phone had been lost or thieved by a runaway squirrel or something. He always gets back. In this case, he was a few days late merely because he was waiting to learn whether he’d made the Angels’ big-league roster or was given a minor-league assignment to open the season.

Stetter first got a Triple-A assignment. And most recently, a visit to the disabled list to mend a back that kept locking up. A shame, since Stetter seemingly remains a peck or two from breaking back into the majors, where he hasn’t been in two years. You can root for guys like Stetter to reach the big time, since he’s the same guy after that jumbo paycheck than before.

There’s proof.

A few months after Stetter pitched for the Brewers in the 2008 National League Division Series, he helped sell half-pot tickets at his alma mater at a Southridge High School basketball game. Just a hunch, but something tells me CC Sabathia wasn’t peddling raffle tickets in his hometown after his baseball season ended that year.

On a more recent offseason layover in Indiana, he did former Crawford County baseball coach Greg Gogel a solid in helping with the team’s winter workouts for pitchers. Another friend works for the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwood, where Stetter stopped for another appearance.

“He never puts himself on a pedestal,” said his mother, Susie. “He’s a very humble, smalltown, down-to-to-earth young man.”

He conducts Twitter exchanges with Connor Craig, a SHS junior and friend of Mitch’s younger brother, Luke. These days, Luke is the lanky lefty beginning to emerge where Mitch once shined. And when Luke is pitching, there’s times when Mitch waits for out-by-out updates via text message from his mother.

Same old Mitch. Just as everyone remembers. Just as they knew he’d remain after hurling in his first big-league game early in 2007.

“I don’t think anybody expected (him to change). I think he’s too good of a guy for that,” said Brad Wibbeler, Stetter’s high school teammate and former SHS baseball coach.

“He was able to stay humble, and that helped keep him grounded, whereas other guys who get to that position probably get a little snooty or high on themselves and don’t think they need to worry about home. But Mitch definitely stayed humble in that aspect, and I think that helped him. There’s no reason I couldn’t call him right now and we could just shoot the bull about everything and anything, and it would be like we talked every day. He’s going to be nice to anybody and everybody; he’s just that type of guy. He’s the Ferris Bueller type that everybody likes.”

As journalists we’re obligated to adopt the stoic neutrality of a palace guard. No picking sides or playing favorites. But it’s hard not to root for a guy like Stetter, who rises and falls through the ranks but always keeps an upbeat tenor whether he’s hurting, hurling heat in the bigs or hanging around in the minors.

He’s part of the all-good-guy team. He hasn’t — and isn’t likely to ever — forget where he came from. And he’s never too high and mighty to call or text back.

Just be ready for the response. Stetter’s quick, so it’s coming soon.

Herald Sports Editor Brendan Perkins, who sometimes gets scolded by his mother for not returning calls and text messages in prompt fashion, can be reached at bperkins@dcherald.com or 482-2626, ext. 111.

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