For someone who wanted to play college basketball as a senior in high school, Joey Stock is living out his baseball dream four years later.
In 2016, the talented right-handed pitcher went from being a shortstop/third baseman to a pitcher for St. John’s (MN) as a college freshman. That decision would soon change the trajectory of his baseball career. Today, he throws in the high 90s, is transferring to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has aspirations of playing professional baseball.
The Cold Spring native once dreamed of ending his playing career for a franchise he grew up watching in St. Cloud. Now, he’s returning for his third season with the Rox and is ready to deliver once again for the team he grew up wanting to play for.
Baseball and Johnnie Pride: The Upbringing of Joey Stock
Sports were introduced almost immediately to Stock at a very young age. He comes from a family of many baseball players, including his father and two uncles who had collegiate and town ball playing experience. It was almost an expectation to play the game.
“I don’t remember really when I started playing baseball, but it was just kind of one of those things...it was going to happen,” Stock said.
Stock recalls never not having sports in his life. He’s always carried a unique perspective on athletics from a collegiate level as his father Tom was the Athletic Director at St. John’s from 2006-2016.
“I fell in love with St. John’s immediately,” Stock recalled. “It was definitely unique because I was basically introduced to that college athletic experience at a very young age.”
He can remember helping move his dad into his new office back in 2006 and being in awe. The lights at the basketball gym were on, there was a big window that overlooked Sexton Arena and he was down the hall from legendary football coach John Gagliardi and basketball coach Jim Smith. A young Joey Stock was in love with his future school.
A Different Kind of College Decision
After seven years at St. John’s Preparatory School, it was time to make a college decision. Unlike most high school seniors, it turned out to be an easy process for Stock.
“I was going to St. John’s University,” Stock said. “When I first saw that this was where my dad was working, I was like, ‘yup I’m going here, this will work.’”
However, a difficult decision was looming. After playing basketball, baseball and soccer growing up, Stock would need to pick what sport he would continue to play in college. He thought he would be playing on the hardwood.
Stock had the skill set to play college basketball. He was tall, could defend and be an efficient scorer. He led the central Minnesota area in scoring his senior year and finished top-five in the state. However, he soon realized what the right path would be.
“I don’t think I wanted to admit it at the time, I really worked my tail off for it, but I was a baseball player and I thank God every day that I chose baseball over basketball,” Stock said.
He credits Jason Spohn, head recruiter for St. John’s Baseball, for sticking with him for a full year during his process and helping him realize his full baseball potential.
The Transition to the Mound
Since being little, Stock has always had a love for being on the baseball field. His main positions included shortstop, third base and first base as he grew taller. However, he rarely pitched and saw time on the mound.
“I was always that kid growing up with the potential to be really good at pitching, but just didn’t quite figure it out,” Stock said.
He can remember always being someone who threw hard and tried to get coaching on pitching each year, but it never worked out. Then, in his freshman year of college, it finally clicked. He hit 91 miles per hour on the radar gun in a spring scrimmage against St. Cloud State. Stock realized there was something there when he was on the mound and began putting more time into pitching.
“I’ve had some big time ups and big time downs in my career, just trying to figure [pitching] out,” Stock said. “I’ve tried everything. It’s been a long journey, but I think I’m slowly starting to grasp my abilities and trying to figure stuff out. Every year we’re seeing improvement, which is pretty nice.”
Stock would go on to strikeout over 60 batters in over 60 innings pitched during his four-year career with St. John’s. He was on track to have a stellar senior campaign in 2020, but the season was cancelled in March due to COVID-19.
"I can't sugarcoat it," Stock said in a 2020 conversation with Frank Rajkowski of Saint John’s University. "That's been hard. Everyone understands the reason. Health and safety have to come first. But when you think of all the sacrifice and hard work we've put in with the vision of what our senior year could be like – not just in baseball, but in everything – it was really tough to see it come to a halt just like that.”
Just like his father did in his time as Athletic Director, Stock cemented a legacy of his own. After spending the last 11 years at a St. John’s affiliated school, Joey Stock is and will forever be a Johnnie for life.
With one year of eligibility left, he decided to take a leap of faith and commit to a school he hadn’t visited in-person yet: Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
From Division III to Division I
When the 2020 college baseball season came to a surprising end, Stock was put in a difficult situation. He hoped that the Rox would re-sign him, and thought maybe he could maybe sign an undrafted free agent deal with an MLB team. This all changed when he got a text from Wyatt Ulrich, a teammate of his from St. John’s.
“He’s kind of the big reason why I even got the opportunity in Milwaukee,” Stock said.
Ulrich texted his teammates that he was leaving St. John’s to transfer to the University of Richmond for his final year of eligibility. This led Stock to reach out and get more information.
“‘Hey, hypothetically, how did you do that? How did you get noticed by Richmond?’” Stock asked.
He told Stock to enter the transfer portal. Despite never hearing about it, he went through the process with compliance. Within 30 minutes of having his name in the database, Stock had multiple programs reach out.
“I had some interest from some other programs, but Milwaukee was one of the first teams that contacted me,” Stock said. “They communicated well with me, they always picked up the phone right away and were very helpful. They gave me an opportunity that I could not pass up.”
Stock will be joining the only Division I baseball program in the state of Wisconsin. In three of the last five full seasons of play, the Panthers have won over 30-games. During the 2019 campaign, Wisconsin-Milwaukee finished 36-22-1 and tied for second place in the Horizon League with a 18-11 conference record.
He’ll look to help the Panthers reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2010.
Achieving a Dream: Playing in St. Cloud
When most players come to the Northwoods League, they all share a common goal of hoping to play professional baseball. However, this initially wasn’t the case for Stock.
“I always envisioned myself as hoping my career would end up playing for the St. Cloud River Bats, the Northwoods League team before the St. Cloud Rox,” Stock said.
He never thought he would play professional baseball and always thought that playing in St. Cloud for the Northwoods League would be something really hard to achieve.
After his sophomore year at St. John’s, Stock got an offer midway through the 2018 summer season to join the Rox roster. The Cold Spring native was quickly on board. He had achieved that hard goal he set as a kid.
“I remember putting on that Rox uniform for the first time. It had my last name on it and I’m like, ‘wow, this is actually happening. I can't believe it,’” Stock said.
He was able to help the bullpen in during the second-half of the 2018 season, recording a save in over five innings pitched. Stock struck out seven batters, and walked just three. His efforts earned him a full roster spot for the entire 2019 Northwoods League season.
Stock soon became a mainstay in Field Manager Augie Rodriguez’s bullpen last season, pitching in 18 innings and striking out 19 batters while recording three saves. He commanded his high-velocity fastball and it became a go-to pitch that hitters around the league struggled to hit.
Over the last three years, he’s also developed a unique bond with Rodriguez both on and off the field.
“He’s meant everything,” Stock said. “He’s one of the best coaches a guy could ask for. He’s just a great resource.”
During the quarantine period, the two talk on the phone once or twice a week. Stock recalls having many questions and not a lot of answers, but Rodriguez would. Whether it was topics on the Northwoods League season, the MLB Draft or transferring schools, it has been Rodriguez that has been there for Stock.
As he gets ready for his third season wearing the 26 uniform for the Rox, Stock is extremely grateful for his time with the franchise.
“If you would have told me four years ago that I would’ve gotten the opportunity to play for Al Newman and Augie Rodriguez and be a part of this organization for not one, not two but now a third summer, I wouldn’t have believed you to be quite honest,” Stock said.
“A small town kid like me in Cold Spring, Minnesota that went to the St. John’s Prep School doesn’t get an opportunity like that every day.”
For a person who once wanted to end his career with St. Cloud, Stock is well on his way to making the destination with the Rox an early stop on a long baseball journey ahead.