Sidelines

Sidelines: Stevens’ spring training

Dave Stevens lives the springs of baseball fans’ dreams.

As the pictures will attest, the ESPN assignment desk manager spent a few days in Port Charlotte, Fla. spring training with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Former major league outfielder Jayson Romano [not the ESPN talent producer Jason Romano] invited me to play in the MLB Alumni game after he participated in my Celebrity Amputee Golf Tournament,” Stevens said.

“Rays manager Joe Maddon was awesome, [he] sent me up to the umps with a lineup card and had me throw out first pitch.

“Johnny Damon was a terrific guy. My highlight was sitting in the dugout talking to Don Zimmer about baseball for six innings.”

Stevens also pitched an inning in the 2011 MLB Alumni game. He surrendered three runs — just one earned — and claimed the victory.

The highlight was getting Mark Whitten — who is one of the few major leaguers to hit four homers in one game — to pop out to end the inning, Stevens said.

Stevens also was 1-for-3 at the plate.

“The MLB Alumni game was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, playing side by side with legends like Jim Bunning, Dante Bichette, Bob Boone, Jeff Kent, Mickey Morandini, David Wells and Goose Gossage,” Stevens said.

“Relieving former Cy Young award winner Steve Bedrosian was a dream come true.

“I always wanted to pitch, I just never dreamed it would be in front of a stadium crowd to former major leaguers. Giving up a single to [comedian] Larry the Cable Guy was cool, too.”

Stevens is a 16-year ESPN employee and has won seven Sports Emmys. In his job, he keeps the company’s various news and information shows up to speed.

Stevens was born without legs, the side effects of the drug thalidomide. His birth mother took it to prevent morning sickness.

Besides pursuing sports, Stevens is a motivational speaker. He visited a New Jersey school recently.

The 3-foot, 2-inch Stevens played football, baseball and wrestled in high school. He lettered in football and baseball at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. The workout with the Rays is his latest athletic pursuit; he’s been part of spring training sessions with various MLB teams.

In 1996, Stevens spent his spring training with the St. Paul (Minn.) Saints, an independent farm team. At the time, his teammates included former major-league stars Jack Morris and Darryl Strawberry.

This SportCenter segment captures that experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeLmBFYeaxI