Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the Beat with Steve Mapel-Part 1

A few weeks ago, I made contact with George Dierberger who I first met about 30 years ago when he was playing for the Wisconsin Rapids Twins.  I enjoyed that so much that I looked up some other players from the WR Twins whom I had met back then. 
Steve Mapel pitched for 5 seasons in the Minnesota Twins farm system, compiling a 40-31 record and was on the WR Twins when my family went to see them.  He answered all of my questions which you will see below and tomorrow.

Q-How did it feel the first time you saw yourself on a baseball card and was asked for an autograph?
SM-The first time I saw myself on a baseball card and was asked for my autograph was my first year in pro ball...1978, in Rookie league in Elizabethton, TN.  It was an amazing feeling to say the least.  I was already on cloud 9, beginning to live a dream.  There's a great feeling of accomplishment that comes to you, but also knowing there's a lot of hard work to do.  I loved every minute of it.  I sent home some of my baseball cards to my family.  It wasn't long before I found out that my two younger brothers, ages 9 and 13, were trying to sell them.  I'm not sure how that went.

Q-You pitched briefly in 1982, then never again.  Why did you leave baseball?
SM-1982, my 5th year in pro ball, I went to spring training still as a starting pitcher, like I have been my entire career.  This year they drafted a bunch of young pitchers.  They began using me as a reliever.  I told them that if this is my ticket to the big leagues, then I am all in.  They tried to hold me back and send me to AA again.

But I did well in spring training so they sent me to AAA Toledo Ohio to be a reliever for the Mud Hens.  The first two weeks of the season our record was 3-11.  Our younger pitchers were not ready for AAA.   I had 3 relief appearances....no wins, no losses, no saves....but I pitched well and had a 3.38 ERA.  Shortly thereafter, our manager, Cal Ermer called me in to his office to say that I would be getting back in the starting rotations soon, that these younger pitchers were not ready for AAA.
Well, 3 days later, Cal called me into his office and said that he got a call from the minor league director, George Brophy, and they released me. I WAS CRUSHED.
I was 25 years old, I thought on the verge of making it to the big leagues, and my world was coming down.  This was the first time in my life that I had been cut from a team.
I went home, called 24 baseball teams, trying to find a team to play for.  I called my buddy, Tony Oliva, and he got me on a team in the Mexican League. I spent the rest of the summer of 1982 playing in Mexico where I was 6-3 for the Broncos.  I asked for my release after the season, so I could get hooked up with a team
back in the United States.  In 1983 I was invited to the AAA training camp with the Detroit Tigers.  I was 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, and they released me in 3 weeks.
Being married at the time, we decided to go home and get jobs and begin our life together.......but 2 months later, the Indians AA team had called me and asked me to fly up to Buffalo, NY to try out for their AA team.  I guess I didn't have what they were looking for, so they sent me home.  That was the end of my pro career. So, I didn't leave baseball......baseball left me. I would have played until my arm fell off.  They got rid of me.  Not being a drafted player, and signing out of a try-out camp, they didn't have any money invested in me.  I was not in their plans in the big leagues to begin with.

Q-What have you done post-playing and how was the transition?
SM-What I have done post-play was go back home to Kansas City MO and got a job as a carpenter building houses.  I had a Construction Degree in College, so other than baseball, Construction was all I knew. I built houses for 2 years, then moved into the Commercial construction field where I have been up to now.  I am now 54 years old and I'm a field Superintendent for an interior tenant finish Construction Company.  I have been married since October of 1982, and we have two daughters and a son.

The transition was not that easy and took a long time to get over.  You have to remember, I was 26 years old at the time, and I have been playing baseball since I was 6 years old.  My dream had come to an end, and I didn't like that.  I had fallen short of where I wanted to be....in the big leagues.  On the other hand, I probably got a lot farther, and did a lot more, than a lot of other players did.  It was truly a dream come true. I'll always treasure the memories.  Met some awesome people in my experience.


Cleveland Mike said...

Great write ups on Dierberger and Mapel. I love that you went back to players you met so long ago. So cool that they responded and are doing well.

Frankie said...

I find these stories much more interesting than so-called stars.