When Troy Stokes started playing baseball at the age of five, it may have been more about his father’s love of the game. But by the time he was eight or nine that love was his, along with rapidly advancing skill. Somewhere in the intervening years, his love of the game turned into the dream of becoming a professional major league baseball player.

That dream became a reality June 6 when the Milwaukee Brewers made Stokes, a Woodlawn native, the 116th selection overall in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB draft.

Describing the moment of his selection, Stokes said, “My family was with me. They just started screaming and hollering. Then my cell phone was ringing off the hook.”

Stokes is the youngest of Troy and Lawanya Stokes’ three children, part of a nuclear and extended family that has been supportive and encouraging from his first at-bat. His father, Troy Stokes Sr., led the charge and his pride was almost tangible. “I’m happy. I’m proud,” said Stokes Sr. “It’s somewhat mind-boggling.”

Stokes has been an unsung hero at Calvert Hall High School, graduating June 1, and during his senior season claimed the school record for runs scored and with 34 steals, breaking the school’s single-season steal record and falling just short of breaking the all-time bases stolen record. Despite his hard work for the team, it was his play in other venues that brought him to the attention of major league scouts. He participated on the travel team EvoShield Canes, which won two championships in 2013: the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship and the WWBA 17-under World Series. Stokes also made the USA Team and traveled with them in 2010 to a tournament in Nicaragua.

That exposure in venues across the country, along with playing and training year-round, gave Stokes the exposure needed for a scholarship to the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) and the interest of MLB scouts.

“I definitely want to thank God, my parents—they definitely sacrificed a lot,” Stokes Jr. said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They did the right things to get me here.”

His father partially agreed, explaining that his son’s play across the country made him visible to the right people. However, according to Stokes Sr., his son’s abilities are just a small part of it all. “Beyond the skill, it’s got a lot to do with attitude,” Stokes Sr. said. “How he dealt with striking out. How he dealt with losing.”

“His signature, since he was nine or 10 years old, is to remove his hat when he lines up to shake hands ,” Stokes Sr. said. “His character is where it needs to be. He’s awesome.”

Signing a contract with the Brewers on June 6, halted Stokes’ UMCP college plans and kicked everything else into high gear. By June 10 he will be on the way to Milwaukee for a team physical, and the next day he will be off to Arizona, where he will spend the summer playing rookie ball.

Stokes Sr. said he was ready to see his son start his future as an adult. “I think this is something we’ve been preparing for a while,” said Stokes Sr. “The scary part is the unknown. Most people know what college has in store. I know that route. This route is unknown.”

Stokes Jr. seemed ready to embrace the journey.

“It’s going to be all baseball all the time,” he said. “I’m definitely ready.”

Understanding that reaching this goal is just the beginning of his journey, Stokes has already begun to consider what comes next.

“My main goal is to make it to the major leagues,” he said, explaining that he doesn’t just want a place on the roster, but wants to play and make a difference for his team. “I want to be an All-Star.”

Zakiya Chikwendu contributed to this article.


Talibah Chikwendu

Special to the AFRO