Stavisky back on the road to the big leagues

Ed Hamilton/Arkansas Travelers

Ed Hamilton/Arkansas Travelers

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus, July 17, 2008

When Brian Stavisky left Port Allegany last winter for the Oakland A’s spring training complex in Phoenix, the seventh-year pro was looking forward to finally getting a chance to spend the entire season with their top minor league team, the Class AAA Sacramento Rivercats. And maybe, if he played well enough, he’d even make it all the way to Oakland.

A lot has changed in the last five months.

The A’s signed or traded for several new players at his position during the off-season, and Stavisky’s prospects for substantial playing time diminished. About a week before breaking camp, the club informed him there wasn’t an everyday role for him at either the double-A or triple-A level, and the A’s planned to release him.

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise. “I still felt like I should be there,” the Port Allegany alumnus said, “but I wasn’t one of their top priorities.”

The A’s aided his transition as best they could, contacting other teams to let them know he’d be available. But with everyone trimming their rosters at the same time, open spots in affiliated ball were scarce, so he quickly signed a contract with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League.

The move east had the added benefit of reuniting Stavisky with new Lancaster skipper Von Hayes, who had previously managed him at Modesto and Midland in the A’s minor league system.

“I’ve always felt he had the potential to be a frontline hitter in the big leagues,” Hayes told the Lancaster New Era. “The guy can flat out hit. Here’s his chance to get back on track again and prove to some people that he still has it. I’d love to be the guy who helps such a hard-working individual reach the big leagues.”

The 6-3, 230-pound outfielder quickly settled in – but didn’t get too comfortable – in southeastern Pennsylvania. In 29 games with the Stormers, he batted .282 with five homers, nine doubles, and 20 RBIs.

“I was playing well, and it was fun,” he admitted. “The host families were all great, and since it was my first time playing on the East Coast, it gave my parents and some other people from Port a chance to make it down to a couple of games.

“I enjoyed my time in Lancaster … but it wasn’t where I wanted to be.” So when the call from the Los Angeles Angels came on Memorial Day weekend, Stavisky “was pretty excited about being back in Double-A, back in affiliated ball.”

He headed west to join the Arkansas Travelers, the Angels’ Class AA affiliate, arriving in Little Rock just in time to help the team rebound from an 0-7 start to win the Texas League North Division first-half championship.

Brian’s prowess at the plate was a major factor in the Travs’ revival. He earned the Angels’ minor league Player of the Month award for June, batting .353 with 21 runs scored, 10 doubles, five home runs and 15 RBIs in 27 games. Through July 14 he’s hitting a solid .314, and his .523 slugging percentage leads the team.

The Arkansas roster is constantly changing as, whenever the Angels make a transaction involving their major league roster, it sets off a ripple effect throughout the entire system. As players have shifted, so has Stavisky’s role on the team. Travs’ manager Bobby Magallanes has been forced to pencil in his normal left fielder/DH for recent games at first base.

“A couple of my friends from here have been called up (to the Salt Lake Bees, the Angels’ Class AAA team). It’s good for them, but finding consistency is tough when you lose your buddies, when there’s so many moves being made.”

Since the beginning of March, Stavisky has seen a good chunk of the United States through the windshield of his car. With typical understatement he conceded, “It’s been an interesting year.”

Is another trip – this time to Salt Lake – in the 28-year-old’s future? He’s not dwelling on the possibility of getting another shot at Triple-A ball.

“If I get called up, that’s great, but you can outthink yourself trying to figure out what the organization will do,” he said. “I’m just trying to play the best I can.”