Gartrell goes deep twice in win against Louisville
If Stefan Gartrell wasn't already engaged to be married in November, he'd be the kind of guy most fathers would dream for their daughter to bring over for dinner.
Gartrell, an outfield prospect for the Atlanta Braves currently playing with Triple-A Gwinnett, is as wholesome as they come.
And he's one of the most likeable guys in the clubhouse too. He always wears a smile on his face, never shies away from a conversation, and tries to use his life as an example of his Christian faith.
"Stefan is a very good young man and a very talented young man as a baseball player," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "He's generally always a happy person, except maybe when he doesn't get a call he likes at the plate.
"He has a very good understanding of who he is as a person."
Gartrell, a 31st-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2006, doesn't drink alcohol or anything with caffeine, and doesn't smoke.
He doesn't use foul language. And on Sundays, he uses his bilingual speaking skills on a team heavy with Latin players to help lead chapel service for the team before games.
He's also holds a degree in business management from the University of San Francisco where he had a concentration in advertising.
And did we mention he's a right-handed slugger for the G-Braves? Gartrell, who is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, set a new single-season franchise record with his 20th home run this season against the Louisville Bats on Monday at Coolray Field.
He put his hitting skills on display recently when he cranked 16 home runs to win the Triple-A home run derby during the All-Star break on July 12 in Salt Lake City.
Unfortunately ladies, he's already taken: He's engaged to marry his fiancee Shavon Grayson in November.
He didn't go into the home run derby thinking about winning it all. However, as a righty he knew he was at a significant advantage with a stiff breeze blowing across from right field to left.
In the end, he managed to outlast Kayden Porter, a rising high school senior from Salt Lake City, who qualified leading up to the derby.
"I went into it seeing if I could get one home run," Gartrell said. "Then it was just a combination of things with good pitches to hit and the wind that played to my advantage."
However, all this new attention for Gartrell's power numbers is relatively new. He made his living as a run producer with singles and doubles when it high school at Sacred Heart Catholic Prep in San Francisco, then in college in his hometown.
He said the greatest piece of advice he got coming up with the White Sox organization came from Jerry Hairston Sr., who told him to work on finishing his swing with just his left hand, and not both hands.
According to Gartrell, that made all the difference in turning doubles into home runs.
"I was always strong, I just used to use two hands and that created top spin on the ball," Gartrell said.
His numbers have reflected that with a career-high 27 home runs last season with the Charlotte Knights, an International League rival of Gwinnett, where played the tail end of 2009 and all of 2010.
He spent all of his first five professional seasons with the White Sox organization, starting with Rookie League Bristol in 2006.
When he was traded to Gwinnett in April, Gartrell had his reservations about hitting at Coolray Field. When he played with the Knights, they regularly made trips to play in Gwinnett, and it used to be one of the toughest parks for him to hit.
When he got traded to the Braves organization and knew he'd be playing half his games in Gwinnett, Gartrell knew it was his job to turn a weakness into a strength.
"Certain parks are just tougher to hit in," Gartrell said. "I used to think of this field as a graveyard for the ball, especially at night."
Another area in which Gartrell excels is hitting with runners in scoring position (.329 average).
Like many power hitters, Gartrell is prone to striking out and has 72 this season. Last year was his worst for striking out with 152 in 534 plate appearances for Charlotte.
"Like most players at this level, he hasn't reached his full potential yet," Brundage said. "One thing is to cut down on the strikeouts like most power hitters.
"But in terms of his power numbers, I think he's fully capable of even more."
Gartrell's athletic background is broader than just being a baseball player, even though it's the only sport that pays the bills.
Growing up, Gartrell was a self-described undersized power forward/center and helped lead Sacred Heart Cathedral basketball program to the Northern California Class AA state finals in 2001 and 2002 with his double-double average per game.
He remembers that high school basketball was much bigger in San Francisco, so not as many people knew he was an even better baseball player and planned on making that his future.
"I remember the high school baseball fields didn't have outfield fences, so I always led the league in triples," Gartrell said.
He still has the attitude that he's going to do whatever he can to help the team, whether it be with home runs, extra base hits or singles.
"My job at the plate is to produce runs and that's what I'm going to do to help the team," Gartrell said.