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July 13, 2010

Prospectus Q&A

Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher

by David Laurila

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There is more to the Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher story than just a catchy name. A 20-year-old outfielder in the Marlins’ organization, Stonecipher has ridden a choppy wave from prep stardom to pro ball. Like a cat with nine lives, the enigmatic slugger has had multiple flirtations with the brink of oblivion, only to bounce back and establish himself as a legitimate prospect. A New York-Penn League All-Star last year, "Stoney" is currently hitting .329/.398/.548 with the short-season Jamestown Jammers.

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David Laurila: Most people aren’t familiar with you. How would you describe yourself?

Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher: Well, my name is Sequoyah Stonecipher and I was born and raised in San Diego, California. I’ve been playing ball my whole life—as long as I can remember—and my dad pretty much taught me everything that I know. I went to a big powerhouse for baseball [Mission Bay High School]. Obviously, I wanted to get drafted and make a career out of it. Out of high school I went to a junior college. I didn’t get drafted my first year, but I got picked up my second year by the Marlins, in the 14th round, and signed right away. I was drafted in ‘09, so this is my second season. I played in Jamestown last year and got hurt toward the end of the season. That set me back a little bit, so I’m back here in Jamestown, but I should be going up to Low-A pretty soon, as soon as I’m healthy and hitting again.

DL: Who are you as a player?

STS: I’ve been told that I was scouted as a five-tool player. I have a little speed, I hit for power and average, I play all the outfield positions and have been told that I have a good arm, so I like to think of myself as a five-tool player. And I’m a competitor. I like to win and do what it takes to win; I’ll sacrifice myself for the team. I also just love baseball and like to have fun when I come out here and do it.

DL: Is being from San Diego a big part of your identity?

STS: Definitely. I pride myself on that. I live that lifestyle and try to incorporate it into everything I do. I never forget where I came from and who I am, and San Diego made me into the person that I am today. So yeah, I like to let it be known that I’m from San Diego. Some people might call me a Cali-surfer guy, but I grew up surfing and my dad owned a surf shop, so I don’t take offense to that. It’s what I am and I just happen to be good at baseball, too.

DL: There is an Oklahoma side to your background as well.

STS: Yes, that’s my grandfather on my mother’s side. It’s where I get most of my Native-American heritage. He is actually the one who gave me my name: Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher. Sequoyah was a Native American from the Cherokee Tribe and wrote their language and alphabet. My grandfather is big in the Choctaw community and he wanted to pass on some heritage to me, so he gave me the first name of Sequoyah. My middle name, Trueblood, is a huge family name from my ancestors who were born and raised in Oklahoma and were a big part of the Choctaw tribe and heritage.

DL: What does that part of your background mean to you?

STS: It’s unfortunate, but I honestly don’t know as much as I should about the bloodlines, because I was raised in San Diego and didn’t really grow up around it too much. I just know it’s how I got my name. But my grandfather, and my grandparents on my mother’s side, are huge into the Native American culture—they live out in the woods. My grandfather actually built his first house out in the woods and they live that lifestyle a lot more than what I was raised in. My parents moved to San Diego, because they wanted the California lifestyle.

My name is a big part of who I am and a lot of people want to know about it—it‘s usually the first thing they ask—so I’m trying to learn more. I talk to my grandfather about where exactly we came from, and how we came about, and I even do research online about the Choctaw tribe. I’m a registered Choctaw, so I need to learn more to answer questions and to be more involved in the culture.

DL: Do ever feel that you’re stereotyped because of your name or your background?

STS: It’s not so much a stereotype of being a Native American; I get more of a stereotype of being a Cali-surfer guy, a laid-back beach bum. I’ve heard it all. But I know there haven’t been a whole lot of Native Americans in baseball—I only know of a few—and I’m joining that minority in baseball. As far as stereotyping goes, when people see me, they don’t think of a Native American, because I’m not tan and don’t have the long hair or anything like that. I get stereotyped for being a Cali, West Coast beach bum more than anything.

DL: You touched on your baseball background earlier, but didn’t really elaborate. How much more is there to the story?

STS: Well, you could say that my life story has been somewhat of a rollercoaster in the sense that I grew up in a town where… I guess you could say that there are a lot of rejects. Maybe that’s not the best way to put it, but it’s a beach town with a lot of hippies, you could say. I was always caught in the middle. I had my life as an athlete—a baseball player—with a whole different set of friends than the ones I grew up with, who were all surfers and skaters and didn’t really have a path. They weren’t into school and a lot of them didn’t make it through school, and I was caught in the middle. These were the people I grew up with. I love them, I know them, and I was born and raised with them, but at the same time I’m an athlete and trying to be a professional baseball player. I have a whole different set of people and friends, and a community, over here, so I always found myself caught in the middle, and I guess you could say that it got me into trouble.

I was supposed to be drafted out of high school. I made the Aflac team and was on the Junior Olympic team and Youth National team, so I was projected to go high out of high school, but I got into a little bit of trouble. I was never into school much—I wasn’t much of a student—and I didn’t realize… I was also young for my grade. I graduated high school when I was 17 and I never realized how much commitment it took. I always thought that my talent would just take me wherever I was going to go, and I learned the hard way. I got in trouble in high school and lost my opportunity to get drafted.

Out of high school, I got a second chance. I got a full ride to USD, in San Diego, and they gave me everything I could have needed to be successful. I had tutors there—it’s a tough academic school—but I was in over my head. They gave me an opportunity to succeed, but again, my youth and immaturity just wouldn’t let me do it. I got in more trouble. Basically, I ended up leaving USD because I didn’t think that I could handle the academics; there were too many rules and it took more commitment than I was ready to handle at the time. So I left USD after only one semester and went to [Grossmont Community College] which is what I was told I’d be more suited for because of my style and not really liking school.

After my freshman year of JC, I again got into a little trouble and lost my opportunity to get drafted. The scouts weren’t believing yet that I was ready. They didn’t feel that I was mature enough to be a professional baseball player. They said, “one more year of school and we’ll see how it goes,” and I finally got my head out of the dirt. I committed myself to school and went to all of my classes; I got a 3.5 GPA. I was also good on the field. I tried to be a leader and show the coaches that I was ready. I obviously also tried to show the scouts that I was ready, and finally they believed me. They saw that I could commit to something that I wanted to do, and they gave me this opportunity. Now I’m here and trying to make the best of the chance that I’ve been given.

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Two days after sitting down for this interview, Stonecipher and his Jamestown teammates played at Fenway Park in the fifth-annual Futures at Fenway minor-league doubleheader. He shared his thoughts on that experience during batting practice:

Stonecipher: Unreal. It’s just… I’m still in awe. I’m trying to focus on taking BP and getting ready for the game, but I can’t help but think about the fact that I’m actually in Fenway. I’ve never even been here before and to be able to, on my first visit, take BP and play in a game, is just a dream come true. I‘m simply in awe.

Editor’s note: Stonecipher went on to have a double and three walks in four plate appearances as Jamestown defeated Boston’s short-season affiliate, the Lowell Spinners, 7-2.

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 Jamestown manager Dave Berg on Stonecipher: He’s a gamer who goes out there and plays hard. I didn’t see him play last year, but apparently he hurt his knee. He started out in Greensboro this year and injured something, and he came down to extended [spring training] before coming here. He’s been a good player for us. He plays hard and has good at-bats. He’s got a little power and is a good outfielder with a strong arm. I see him [projecting] as a hitter for average with a little bit of power. I can’t really throw numbers out there, but I think that he can hit for a good average and have a lot of doubles—a lot of extra-base hits. He's a good kid.  

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