JSerra baseball star Dominic Smaldino has historical past on his facet
If you happen to be standing on first base against San Juan Capistrano JSerra in the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, it’s the perfect time to ask 6-foot-6 first baseman Dominic Smaldino for a quick history lesson on his family’s baseball legacy.
Yes, he could talk for 30 minutes about his great-grandfather, Joe Stephenson, a scout for the Boston Red Sox for more than 50 years, or his grandfather, Jerry Stephenson, a scout for the Dodgers for more than 20 years who pitched in the 1967 “Impossible Dream” World Series.
Or you could ask his mother, Shannon, Jerry’s daughter, who has story after story to tell and is about the coolest mom a baseball player can have.
“My mom knows it all,” Smaldino said.
There’s also uncle Brian Stephenson, a scout with the Dodgers. Smaldino’s father, Peter, played baseball for Arcadia High. And aunt Joe Ann Reck, Joe‘s daughter, was a legendary girls’ basketball coach at Santa Ynez High.
The Stephensons are baseball royalty. Joe signed such Red Sox players as Rick Burlison, Bill Lee, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. He died in 2001 after being a scout from 1948 to 2001. Jerry played seven MLB seasons before becoming a scout for 36 years. He died when Smaldino was 5, in 2010.
Smaldino has so many vintage uniforms, gloves, photos and baseball cards in his bedroom he could start his own museum.
He has come to love history, whether it’s baseball or not. At 18, he’s mature beyond his years, able to speak comfortably with adults and offer insights normal teenagers don’t possess.
He has committed to Cal and has been one of JSerra’s top players for two seasons. He had the key hit last year that propelled the Lions to their first Southern Section Division 1 championship, beating Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 3-1 in the final. He’ll be another important contributor for this season’s playoffs, which begin on Thursday, after batting .340 with three home runs and 17 RBIs during the regular season.
Talking baseball history is fun for Smaldino.
“I’m big on history in general,” he said.
When he traveled to Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as a youth player, he made sure to find a shop in town selling old gloves from the 1920s and 1930s. He bought one.
“I don’t know how they caught balls with the gloves they had,” he said. “Things were simpler back then.”
He has his grandfather’s framed Red Sox jersey from 1967 hanging in his room and another jersey from former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. His great-grandfather’s scouting reports are in Cooperstown.
His younger brother, Max, an eighth-grade pitcher who will be at JSerra next season, is also learning the history and should be able to keep passing on the memories when big brother goes off to college.
“It’s pretty crazy,” JSerra coach Brett Kay said. “It goes a long ways back. They’re baseball through and through.”
Mom has been the keeper of the family baseball stories.
“I have no choice,” Shannon said. “I was born into it.”
If people ever get bored with baseball, they can always ask Smaldino a math question.
“Dom is also a math genius,” Kay said.
“He is scary,” his mother said.
Being an expert in math, history and baseball: What more can a teenager ask for?