Remembering 2012: Profile of Stephen Penney
It may be the slowest time of the year for Revolution news, but we still have plenty to post here in case you missed it during the season. As we did last year, we’ll be posting a different column at the beginning of each week from the past season of the York Revolutionary Times in case you missed an issue at the ballpark.
By Carrie Wood
At six-foot-seven, Stephen Penney is one of the more imposing figures on the mound for the Revolution. But don’t let that fool you – he’s more than just the tall guy with the mustache.
As a first-year Rev, Penney has established himself as a prominent figure in the York bullpen, and as a clear fan favorite as well, evidenced by the fan-made nametag on his usual seat down the first base line. The red head from southern California spent time in the Seattle Mariners system, getting as high as Double-A before finding himself in the Atlantic League. But before that, he was winning the 2007 Big West Baseball Championship with the University of California-Riverside, on a team that produced multiple big-league caliber players. Dan Runzler, Marc Rzepczynski and Joe Kelly are all in the Majors and all contributed to that 2007 team’s success. Following that season, Penney was drafted for the first time by the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round, but chose not to sign.
“I was going to Cape Cod, and I wasn’t expecting to get drafted. It was a bonus to get drafted – it’s always nice to hear your name somewhere like that. They told me that if I had a good year in the Cape Cod League they would match whatever bonus I was looking for, to an extent, and they didn’t. But I was totally content with that, because I was going to be the Friday night guy the next year, so I figured I could maybe split the rounds in half and break in the top ten rounds,” Penney said. “But I didn’t have quite the year that I thought I was going to.”
The following year he was drafted, again by the Mariners in the 28th round, and signed with them to begin his professional career. He was just five classes short of finishing his degree program, but is planning to go back during this coming off-season to get it done.
“I finally have the time to do it this year. I really want that, especially because in the UC system, they can change requirements, so some elective I might not have had to take five years ago, I might have to take now,” Penney said. “So it’s easier to just get the degree now. I’ve always wanted the degree, but the timing just didn’t work out until now.”
His major at UC Riverside was Statistics with quantitative management with an emphasis on finance. If you’re looking for a translation of that into English, Penney described it in layman’s terms as “a finance degree, but way more analytical.”
“My dad’s kind of in that business – he was an industrial engineer – and he said it was a good degree to have, so that’s what I went with,” he said. “I was a mechanical engineer for two years and two quarters, and then things just didn’t align with the practice time. I redshirted my freshman year and then my sophomore year, I still wasn’t playing much. So I kind of had to make a decision, because I still wanted to have baseball in my life, between engineering and baseball. So I chose the major that allowed me to transfer most of the math courses, which led to statistics with quantitative management.”
Though he says he’s not entirely sure what he plans on doing with the degree once it’s done, he’s interested in working for a government agency – particularly the CIA, as they’re bigger into “computers and analytical stuff” now, Penney said. Of course, all of that will have to wait until after he’s done with baseball, though he doesn’t yet have a cut-off date as far as that career is concerned.
“The time will come, and whether it is two years from now or twenty years from now, it doesn’t matter. I want to get the degree, and I’ve been telling myself for a while now that I’m going to do it,” he said.
Before he heads back to the classroom, Penney said he plans on enjoying the rest of the season here in York. He said the experience here is comparable to the highest levels of the minors he reached in Seattle’s system.
“It’s pretty similar. Especially in this league, you know there’s no ‘free outs,’ so to speak. There are players in this league that you definitely have to pitch around. Obviously there are more veteran hitters here who have seen more and been in the game longer, so you have to pitch a little more carefully,” Penney said. “I’ve found that out the hard way, but it’s been a learning experience.”
The fact that everybody in the clubhouse has something in common has also made this a more enjoyable experience for Penney.
“The cool thing here is that everybody here has been released at some point. Everybody’s gone through the same struggle that I’ve gone through. It brings a kind of camaraderie to the clubhouse. Everybody roots for each other,” he said. “We’ve got a great bullpen here – it’s probably one of the better bullpens I’ve been a part of, just personality-wise and such. We don’t have cliques in the bullpen, and I’ve been in bullpens where that’s happened. This is cool.”
While the bullpen is certainly a brotherhood in York, Penney has three biological brothers – all of whom are also taller-than-average, the tallest being 6’10”. His experience in Little League playing with his older brother is what spurred him to pursue baseball in his adolescent years, and though nothing ever came easy for him he’s enjoyed his ride so far.
“Baseball hasn’t been easy for me after Little League. I was cut from my junior year of high school baseball and I didn’t think I was going to play again,” he said. “And then senior year, the pitching coach at Riverside liked me. I didn’t think I was going to play college baseball, let alone Division I baseball at a good school, so I took that opportunity. Things have been tough, but I’ve tried to be resilient through it and just keep moving forward. Everything else has been a bonus for me – getting drafted, and having the opportunity to play professionally, and to play here.”