Padres pitcher Craig Stammen has developed a strong bond with his teammates, and created great memories with family with the help of a game. That game is not baseball. There’s another sport he’ll look forward to playing once life gets back to normal.
"I started playing on a real golf course when I was eight years old."
The Ohio native played with his dad, and both of his grandfathers – and has been swinging the club ever since. Typically he dusts the clubs off each year around Spring Training.
"That’s when I get the game in shape, and during the season I can kick everybody else’s butt."
When players are back together and the season begins, time on the links will again be a popular activity on road trips for the Padres. His toughest competition on the team is Kirby Yates and Chris Paddack, with others trying to get in on the action.
"There’s always guys wanting to play," Stammen said. "Wil Myers, Manny Machado those guys all play golf too. They’re trying to get in the 'A' game with all of us but they say they need some more practice."
Teammates know their game has to be sharp if they’re gonna tee it up with Stammen, after all bragging rights aren’t all that’s at stake. Stammen says they bet a little bit of money here and there.
But beyond the competitive aspect of the sport, the team's golf outings serve a purpose. The hours spent together on the course give guys a chance to get to know each other better.
"To me, if you hang out together off the field that’s when you build a team that’s gonna be tight knit, successful when things don’t always go that well."
That’s an idea that applies to relationships in the clubhouse, as well as a very important one at home. Craig's wife Audrey is also an athlete. She was coaching volleyball at Dayton - Craig's alma mater - when the two met. They started playing golf together early in their relationship.
The sport even provided one of their great moments as a couple. It came as they golfed their way through Hawaii on their honeymoon. Audrey hit a hole-in-one on their final round of the trip. Her ace came at Manele Golf Course in Lanai.
"It was awesome," Audrey said.
The moment went viral, and served as a promising omen for the newlyweds.
"It was a sign from God to let us know that we were supposed to get married," Craig added.
Baseball might pay the bills, but it isn’t the only sport that plays a valuable role in Craig Stammen’s life. He describes it as his 'getaway', and says he's a better husband and teammate when he's able to play a little bit of golf.
But he is quick to mention that the sport is just a hobby – which underscores one big difference between what he does for work, and what he does for play.
"Golf, you can forget about that in two seconds. Bad night at the ballpark, that lives with you for a little while."
Good or bad, he’d probably take any night at the ballpark right about now – but that’ll come eventually. It always does.
"That’s the beauty of baseball, there’s always another game."