Committing to Tennessee a “Dream Come True” for JUCO Infielder

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(Photo via @Sethstephenson9 on Twitter)

Multiple signs led Seth Stephenson to commit to Tennessee on July 13th.

Stephenson lost his father just over a year ago, and to celebrate his father’s birthday, Stephenson and his mother traveled to Venice, Louisiana. They were going fishing at his father’s favorite fishing spot when Tennessee head baseball coach Tony Vitello called Stephenson for the first time.

“My mom and I thought that was pretty cool,” Stephenson said. “We thought it was a sign. Especially my mom; she’s big on that stuff. Ever since then, we felt Tennessee was the right place compared to all the other schools I was talking to.”

Exactly two months later, Stephenson committed to the Vols over Arizona, Houston, Rice, Louisiana, and McNeese State. The junior college infielder had also been talking to Arkansas, though the Razorbacks had not yet offered.

It was a no-brainer for Stephenson to pick Tennessee once he got the offer from the Vols. When Vitello called him to inform him of the offer, Stephenson responded that he needed to speak with his mother before he made a decision. Five minutes later, Stephenson called Vitello and committed to the Vols.

“I’m from Austin, Texas,” Stephenson explained. “UT was always a dream to play at, but I kind of wanted to get away from Texas and travel a little bit, so it’s cool to get to play at the other UT.

“Ever since I talked to Coach Vitello, it was a place I wanted to end up, and it’s a dream come true that it got to happen like that. Talking to him, I like the way he runs his program. Talking to him compared to the other coaches — I want to go somewhere where a coach wants me to be there. I felt like the vibes were good with him and the rest of the coaches. I just think that playing for him was going to be the right fit. I know he sends a lot of his guys to the league, and that’s the ultimate goal.”

When Stephenson landed the offer from Tennessee, some of his coaches encouraged him to hold off on making a decision. The thought process was that if one SEC school offers, others will take notice and multiple SEC offers will start to come in.

“My phone had been ringing, but my dream was to play in the SEC,” Stephenson said. “I had already told the Tennessee coaches that if they were going to offer, then I wasn’t going to wait to sign and that’s where I wanted to be. As soon as the offer came, I was ready to go.”

Stephenson is well aware of the multiple junior college prospects Vitello has brought in during his first three seasons on Rocky Top. Former Tennessee shortstop Ricky Martinez, a friend of Stephenson’s and a workout partner, was sure to inform him of all the positives about Vitello’s program. Martinez played one season for the Vols after signing out of junior college. He was drafted in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tennessee’s trip to the Rock Round Classic during the shortened 2020 season afforded Stephenson the opportunity to check out the Vols in person. The Vols defeated top-tier programs Houston, Texas Tech, and Stanford during their trip to Texas, impressing Stephenson so much that he believed that they were going to make an appearance in Omaha at the end of the year.

Stephenson will arrive at Tennessee for the 2021 season as a sophomore out of Temple College in Texas. In his freshman season at Temple, he hit for an average of .318 in 23 games before the season was canceled due to COVID-19. The switch-hitting infielder scored 24 runs, stole eight bases, drove in seven runs and hit six triples.

“I’m a shortstop, but (Vitello) told me if I look at his roster, a lot of his guys play utility,” Stephenson said. “I played some centerfield this past year at Temple, and I played a little of second base. I can really play anywhere. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m in the lineup. I’ll play anywhere in the field. I’m a utility player, but I’m mainly a shortstop.”

For the time being, Stephenson is spending quarantine working out with Alex Simone of Simone Baseball Performance. He’s also playing summer ball. Stephenson’s team won their league and will be playing in the World Series in Kansas on Aug. 2.