There is an elite group of University of Richmond baseball players in the major leagues, and now Tim Stauffer is among them.
Stauffer, 26, ranks with Richmond legends and long-time greats such as Sean Casey, Andy Allanson and Brian Jordan.
"I loved my experience at Richmond," Stauffer said. "Getting to play often as a freshman really helped me out along the way."
While at Richmond, he was regarded as one of the best pitchers in the country and a top major-league prospect. After two long years of battling arm surgery and minor league reassignment, Stauffer has reemerged in Major League Baseball.
With a 1.54 ERA at Richmond, Stauffer ranked No. 1 nationally and set four single-season records. He pitched 146 innings, struck out 146 batters, threw 13 complete games and won 15 games.
He was also a two-time Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year, a NCBWA First Team All-American and a Golden Spikes Award finalist. His personal successes made up only a fragment of the Spider dynasty that won five regional tournaments during the seven years between 1997 and 2003.
During his 2002 collegiate season, Stauffer, along with All-Americans Vito Chiaravalloti and Matt Craig, led Richmond to a Super Regional Championship game and a mere two innings short of entering the prestigious College World Series.
During the 2003 MLB draft, Stauffer was called before future Major League All-Stars Carlos Quentin, Chad Billingsley and Aaron Hill.
As a first-round draft pick, Stauffer made his debut in single-A baseball and climbed to the ranks of AAA Portland in one season. When compared to most professional pitchers, Stauffer's promotion through the minor league system was fast-paced. He garnered an 11-5 record and 2.89 ERA in 2004 in the minors.
On May 11, 2005, Stauffer made his major league debut for the San Diego Padres. Pitching against the Cincinnati Reds and former Spider Sean Casey, Stauffer earned the win after throwing six innings and allowing just four hits.
Casey, who Stauffer called "the ultimate class act," talked with Stauffer before the game about their Richmond experiences and journeys into Major League Baseball.
"It was a truly special experience," Stauffer said.
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After starting 14 games for the Padres, the rookie had stats that might have earned him a spot in the starting rotation.
But constant shoulder pain stunted Stauffer's Major League potential. After playing in only three Major League games during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Stauffer decided to undergo labrum surgery in May 2008.
Although this may have been a crossroad for many professional players, Stauffer said he was determined not to lose sight of his dream.
"I never thought quitting was an option," Stauffer said. "I always trusted myself and never doubted my stuff."
Through countless hours of rehab exercises, weight training and conditioning, Stauffer earned his way back into the Padres rotation. This time, he said he planned to stay.
For the Padres this season, Stauffer has started 14 games, going 4-7 with a 3.58 ERA. Despite seven losses, Stauffer has proven that he has the ability to effectively pitch in a Major League rotation.
In addition to countless hours of rehab, Stauffer attributes much of his success to Padres manager Bud Black. Black, who pitched 15 years in the MLB, has worked closely with Stauffer to provide him crucial lessons from 30 years of professional baseball knowledge.
Stauffer recently married and remains close with many of his former Richmond teammates. Although he was proud of his successes, he said he would continue to improve himself as a key member in the Padres starting rotation.
"Major League Baseball is everything you want," Stauffer said. "It's what you work for and when you finally get here, your focus shifts to 'How can I stay here?'"
Contact staff writer Pat Sandman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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