LLCC Alum celebrates baseball career

Scott Adams, Lamp staff

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SPRINGFIELD — Society celebrates its professional athletes, but going pro is a hard journey. It’s an accomplishment to even be noticed by a professional organization, let alone get a chance to play. Many LLCC grad’s have had this opportunity.

Frank Stefano, Ryan Murphy and Justin Knoedler are a part of a celebrated Lincoln Land Community College baseball team. The 2000 season ended with the team taking home the NJCAA Division II national championship, and several players went on to play professionally.

Knoedler played professionally for seven years, including as a catcher with the San Francisco Giants. Stefano pitched with a Minor League team, the Kingsport Mets in Tennessee, for a brief time.

Stefano, a 39-year-old Sacred Heart-Griffin grad, began at LLCC with hopes of being a student athlete. In 1997, his athletic dreams reached an early obstacle when he was seriously injured in a car accident. That injury would prevent him from playing consistently for two years.

In 1999, Stefano’s baseball aspirations came to fruition. He was versatile as he played as a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman.

The 2000 Loggers team joined the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. The national championship team defeated Iowa Central Community College in the final game of the NJCAA Division II World Series under head coach Claude Kracik.

The championship capped off a record 46-win season and a postseason where the team outscored opponents by a combined score of 57-8.

After graduating from LLCC in 2001 with an associate degree in international business, Stefano transferred to St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida.

Stefano said he was fortunate academically, taking primarily history-based classes.

“Take full advantage of your time at LLCC. Do not take anything for granted,” Stefano said.

He also encouraged students to take their time and not feel rushed into life after college.

Stefano lives in Rochester with his wife, Linsay, and two sons, Frankie and Tyler. He works as a mortgage lender at Bank of Springfield with Murphy and Knoedler.

Stefano said he does not have many regrets about his short-lived baseball career.

“Now I am working all day long compared to having some occasional free time before,” Stefano said.

The former Major Leaguer Knoedler agreed.

“Keeping academic focus allows you to have a Plan B if you are unable to keep your desired career,” Knoedler said.

Scott Adams can be reached at [email protected]