Athlete of the week: CJ Stephens has been a jack of all trades on the diamond
Published 5:56 pm Friday, April 28, 2023
Crack open a dictionary, thumb your way to jack of all trades and you will find a picture of CJ Stephens. The Callaway senior has filled just about every role for the Cavalier baseball team during his four year stint on the team.
“I played every position for varsity other than catcher,” Stephens said, chuckling.
His willingness to sacrifice his wants for the team made him the perfect representation of what it means to be a Cavalier. 2A schools often do not have the luxury of having tremendous depth at every position that the big schools have and have to find ways to get their 11 best players on the field. During his four years, Stephens was one of those players that coach Dusty Hubbard had to have on the field, and he rewarded his coaches faith in him by making a big impact wherever he lined up.
“Learning new positions was challenging, but it is still baseball, and I love to play,” Stephens said. “I’m a baseball player, I will play anywhere.”
He always felt most comfortable in the outfield but was willing to play anywhere to ensure he had a starting role on the diamond. Regardless of where he played, he helped bring an unprecedented level of success to the Callaway baseball program. During his first two years as a starter, the team made the AA state semifinals and his junior year saw the team make a run to the quarterfinals. This year Stephens had to take on a new role. No longer was he one of the guys looking up to the older players on the team, he was one of the guys the younger players looked up to.
“I’ve been one of the youngest guys on the team for what feels like my whole life, but this year I was the oldest guy on the team,” Stephens said. “I had to take a completely different look at the game.”
Stephens has been playing baseball practically his entire life. But now, with the Cavaliers out of the playoffs, he might be hanging up his cleats for good.
“I’m still not sure if I’m going to go and play baseball in college or just go to trade school,” Stephens said. “It’s a tough decision because I’ve been playing baseball my entire life, and I love it, but it is one of those things where I have to do what’s best for me.”
As the Cavaliers’ chances to extend their season slipped from their fingers in the opening round of the state playoffs this year, the inevitable end began to creep up on Stephens. When that final game on the diamond in red and black came, Stephens was overwhelmed with emotion.
“It was a very emotional moment for me,” he said. “It sucks, but I was trying to soak it all in and spend as much time with my guys and have one last moment with them.”
Stephens tried other sports over the years, but his heart was always on the diamond with a glove and a ball with 216 stitches. His heart as always been with Callaway and will continue to be even when he dons the cap and gown in less than a month’s time.
“Callaway is very unique when it comes to all the local schools,” Stephens said. “It’s small, and you really do get to know everybody that walks through the door. It is definitely a family.”