How has Deon Stafford transformed himself into one of the most feared power hitters in the country?
The answers from Stafford and his head coach are very similar.
“I kept working at it, you know?” said Deon.
“He’s a talented kid. He’s a strong kid and he works hard,” added Fritz Hamburg, Saint Joseph’s head coach.
Stafford has 17 home runs this season; tied with Nick Feight of UNCW for most homers by a catcher in Division I baseball.
Yes, this Deon Stafford is different the one from high school.
“(In) high school, I really didn’t hit home runs at all. I’m talking, like, two home runs the season,” recalled Deon.
He also hit two his first year in college, but “he had 19 doubles,” said Hamburg. “He only had two home runs, but 19 doubles. It was just a matter of time for that transition (to home run hitter) to unfold.”
And has it.
Stafford’s 17 home runs are also within striking distance of the overall leader in Division I, Missouri State’s Jake Burger, who has 19.
He hit three in one game on May 13 against Fordham.
Deon says he’s now stronger.
Coach says smarter. “Now he started to learn to sit on pitches,” added Hamburg; though Deon’s not getting as many good pitches as he saw earlier in the season.
“I can definitely tell the pitching to me has been different,” said Stafford. “I don’t really get as many fastballs (now), but you just got to be patient.”
When Deon signed with St Joe’s he said he had goals.
“I want to be an all-star team my freshman year,” said Stafford in November 2013 as a senior at Lower Dauphin. “I want to start my freshman year.”
He’s accomplished those (goals).
“I definitely want to put St. Joe’s on the map.”
And he may be doing that now — by transforming himself into one of the feared power hitters in the nation.
Now stronger and smarter, Deon’s ultimate dream — of becoming a pro — is almost a reality.
“That’s been my dream since I was 5 years old,” said Stafford, who’s eligible for the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2017. “But I really don’t want to get caught up in that; because if I just keep playing the game of baseball and having fun, things to take care of itself.
“Definitely, though, if keep working hard, I think it can happen.”