All it took was one day. One day.
Stephen Cardullo went from being a random late season call-up to the sort of thing legends are made of in just a matter of 24 hours. Last season on August 31st, Cardullo’s 29th birthday, Stephen Cardullo put a stamp on his incredible rise to the majors.
The Rockies had a day night double header and in game one Cardullo came up to pinch-hit for the pitchers spot and hit his first major league home run. But it was the second game that turned a feel good story into unimaginable. In the first inning with the bases loaded Cardullo smacks a grand slam off of the Dodgers Bud Norris. Just like that Rockies, fans knew who Stephen Cardullo was, but how did he get there?
Now many people may have learned that this corner infielder born in Hollywood, FL wasn’t a no-doubt prospect like many others. Cardullo proved himself every step of the way. In college he was a walk-on for the Florida State Seminoles baseball team and did not become an everyday starter until his junior year. In that season Cardullo hit .376 with 20 doubles, 10 home runs, and 51 RBI. He followed up with a .283 average 11 home runs and 53 RBI in his senior year. It was those performances that enabled Cardullo to be drafted in the 24th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The next step was rookie ball but even after a solid season in 2011 he was out of the Diamonbacks organization within a year. Still looking to prove himself Cardullo, then 24, set his sights on Independent ball. After a year in the Frontier League Cardullo finally found a home with the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am Baseball League.
Each year of his three seasons with the Rockland Boulders saw Cardullo get better and better forcing MLB scouts to check him out and finally getting a contract from the Rockies. Last season saw Cardullo continue his growth in AAA and conclude with his magical late season call-up. This season began with a new achievement as Cardullo made the opening day roster.
With his first Rockies Opening Day in the books we reached out to Cardullo to ask a little about his time in the North East with the Rockland Boulders. “Playing in Rockland was definitely a great experience, the fan base, organization, my host parents…the overall community was great.” Cardullo continued, “Shawn and Ken, the owners, were great. Very supportive, fan friendly experience at the ballpark, the facilities were top-notch so I was able to get my work in. All players were able to get their work in and further their careers.”
The Manager of the Boulders, Jamie Keefe, was in his first season with Rockland the same year Cardullo joined the team here is what Cardullo had to say about his tutelage: “Definitely a big part in helping my improvement, he’s the kind of manager who let’s players play and let’s you be comfortable with who you are. He helped a lot playing different positions, came in playing 3rd base then play me some in the outfield, which definitely helped me become a true corner guy.”
The work of Keefe to help Cardullo become a corner guy was used this past weekend by the Rockies. Cardullo got starts in both of the Rockies wins against the Dodgers, Friday and Saturday, including a primetime game featuring Clayton Kershaw and Jon Gray.
We asked Cardullo how it felt to have the chance to play, and contribute, in such a marquee match-up, at one point making an important diving catch. “Players in baseball have to put up good numbers and be versatile, there has to be a need and fortunately enough their was a need last year that I was able to get an invite to Spring Training with the Rockies. I came in versatile this offseason continuing to work on being a true corner guy LF, RF, 1B and yesterday was a great win for the team.”
There is no way to know for sure how Stephen Cardullo’s MLB career will go but for a guy who was a walk-on in college, fought through independent ball, and became a MLB rookie at the age of 29 we know better to bet against him. Cardullo strives on proving himself everyday.