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Patience, tradition drive Stephenson


It was such a simple game.

Francis Scott Key senior Dan Stephenson was 9 or 10, living in Mount Airy with a baseball diamond for a front yard.

He was joined by his brother Kyle, who played shortstop for Key last year, and the two would round up seven kids from the neighborhood and head back home.

His father, Richard, would be waiting on the makeshift mound with Dan's four oldest siblings -- two brothers and two sisters -- providing defensive support.

Richard would spot himself a 15-run lead and the opposing nine would have seven innings -- three outs in each -- to try and top it.

"A lot of times we'd catch him in the fifth or sixth inning and he would spot himself five more runs," Dan said. "We just played and played and played -- for hours. That's where I learned to hit."

Perhaps that explains why when most of his Francis Scott Key team mates were chasing Lee Horshbaugh's nasty curveball in an 8-3 loss to South Hagerstown on Tues-day, Stephenson was patiently letting them go by and sitting on the fastball after getting ahead in the count. He finished the afternoon 2-for-2 with two RBIs, improving his batting average to .472.

It wasn't an altogether perfect day for Stephenson, who took the loss on the mound -- dropping to 4-2. He went into the game with a 2.3 ERA. The Eagles are 8-3, matching last season's number of victories.

"It's no big deal, it's only a loss," Stephenson said. "We'll just set it aside and look forward to the rest of the season. This is the best team our school has ever had and we feel we can bring home a state championship."

That's the kind of attitude Key coach Bob Caples enjoys seeing.

"Dan has a real good competitive edge and no-nonsense approach," he said. "He enjoys the game and has fun with it. But when game time comes, he's all business. He's an intellectual kid that comes from a great baseball family -- it's in his genes."

Dan's father enjoyed a stellar career at Ricks College in Idaho and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Garrett, one of Dan's older brothers, was the opening-day pitcher for the Bowie Baysox. His sister, Tammy, played baseball until she was 16, when her father made her switch to softball.

Dan, a first-team All-County outfielder last year, began pitching in his sophomore season and just last year at the varsity level.

"He knows what to do in certain situations and really keeps within himself," Caples said. "Offensively, he can hit for power, but is basically a good line-drive hitter who can spray the ball all over the field."

One would expect all the success the older Stephensons have enjoyed would pressure Dan, but he said it's just brought a lot of fun and plenty of competition.

"It helps me out a lot. I just want to do so well and keep up expectations," said Dan, who plans to play baseball at Ricks College. "Without all of them, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing."

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