Cougar catcher likes to make calls

Special to the News-DemocratApril 23, 2013 

After practice with the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville softball team, senior Samantha Stanicek packs up her catching gear, grabs her bag, and starts dialing the phone.

Stanicek makes daily calls with her mother, Sheila, and her father, Steve, right after practice.

"It's so funny when I call my mom after practice, and she asks 'how is your day?' and 'Did you eat enough today?'" said Stanicek.

The phone calls to her father are a little different.

"How was practice? What did you do? Did you get enough hitting in?" said Stanicek.

Stanicek said she talks to her father while he's on his way home from Glenbrook South High School where he works as a football coach and a teacher.

"I'm always going home from practice when he's driving home so we are always just in the car at the perfect time," she said.

Stanicek's father has a little experience that was perhaps useful as Samantha was growing up. Steve played 13 games in Major League baseball, four with the Milwaukee Brewers and nine with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was drafted originally by the St. Louis Cardinals and later as a first round pick by the San Francisco Giants. His brother, Pete, also played professional baseball for the Baltimore Orioles.

"Because I played baseball I think that's why she got interested in softball, but probably more because of her older sister (Ashley)," Steve said. "Her older sister played in high school and in college. I think Sam has a lot of respect for her sister Ashley, and I think that's what brings a lot of her passion into the game."

The Staniceks had their second child just as Steve's playing career was coming to an end in 1990.

"When I finished my career, she was just being born," Steve said. "It's been a part of her life but not really a part of her. When I was in Pennsylvania there was a charity event that the players and their wives participated in. I think my wife was about seven months pregnant at the time.

"I thought I would have a son, and he would play sports," Steve said. "I remember when Sam was born thinking I'll go to football games and watch her cheerlead or something. But we always put our kids into a lot of activities and luckily for Sam she was a very good softball player from a little kid."

Samantha Stanicek participated in several sports such as gymnastics, ice skating, volleyball, basketball, and softball. But it was softball that made the difference.

Samantha credited her father for getting her started in softball.

"He didn't push me towards softball. I did a lot of sports as a kid, but that was always just the one that I enjoyed doing the most, and I was just kind of better at it," she said.

She often was away from home for weekends at a time with summer softball. Traveling can be stressful, but making the college decision also can be difficult. When approached by the SIUE coaching staff, Stanicek said it relieved some stress.

"It was so much stress about your life because you play softball your whole life and then you are just waiting for someone to like you and then decide where you are going to go to school," she said.

The recruiting process wasn't difficult. She talked to players who would be future teammates.

"They all talked about how much she (Coach Sandy Montgomery) cares about this team, and that is something I looked for, Samantha said. "I think it just ended up being a really good fit for me, personally."

Coming to SIUE, Stanicek didn't have the starting job right away. She started 23 games as a freshman and then took over full-time catching duties as a sophomore. She has played in more than 165 games as a Cougar and is having her best season at the plate with a .315 batting average.

"I think it was a nice progression," said Steve. "She's had a lot of great coaches influence her as she's moved up. I might have started her out, but she's really gotten a lot of good influences in her life. I think Sandy is tough on kids, but I think she truly cares about them, and she's allowed Sam to become a leader."

Steve Stanicek appears at many of SIUE's softball games. He's a voice in the crowd, sometimes one Samantha can hear even at a low volume level.

"She yelled at me a couple years ago because I walked out to center field. She said she could see me when she was catching, so I tried to find some other place to go. I'm pretty much on the hill in right field at the home games," he said.

"He tends to be in the outfield so he tries to find a spot where he thinks I can't see him, but I can see everything in the outfield. So I don't know why he doesn't stand up there behind me," Samantha said.

Steve said he has always watched his daughter play softball not only as a father but also as a coach. He has 18 years of experience as a high school baseball coach. He tends to ask Samantha questions about how she is doing as well what was involved in her latest practice

"I'm always interested in the practices, and how she's getting ready," Steve said.

He has spent the last three years following his daughter but hopes to get back into coaching baseball.

Samantha said she has enjoyed her senior season. The Cougars have turned in a strong year with more overall wins at the midpoint of the Ohio Valley Conference season than all of last season. She said the team is pleased with its performance but wants to continue to progress.

"Of course I want to hit, but if someone else is helping me get the job done I don't care about that. That's why we're such a good team this year," she said.

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