When you walk through the gate and into the yard at the comfortable Del Mar home of T. Pat and Marti Jo Stubbs, it doesn’t take long to get the idea that baseball might play a significant role in their lives.
If not the sculpture of the crouching catcher guarding the front door, the pitcher in full wind up across the yard might make it evident. There’s also the liberal sprinkling of awards, photos, hats and other paraphernalia once you’re inside.
And if that still doesn’t do it, the fact that they are among a handful of parents who have two sons playing professional baseball should cinch things. That family milestone occurred this past June when their youngest son, 22-year-old CJ, was chosen in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Houston Astros. The 6-foot-3, 200-lb. catcher is finishing up his first month in Troy, NY, playing for the Astros’ Tri-City ValleyCats in the Single A New York-Penn League.
He’s following the trail blazed by his now 26-year-old brother Garrett who four years earlier was selected by the Astros in the eighth round of the draft. Currently playing for the team’s AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express in the Pacific Coast League, the 5-10, 185-lb. Garrett received his first major league call-up on his birthday in late May, getting six starts and 25 at-bats before returning to Round Rock.
Both are catchers with the versatility to play multiple positions. Each starred at Torrey Pines High School (Garrett under Head Coach Matt Chess and CJ with Head Coach Kirk McCaskill) and played college baseball at USC. The journey has been dream-like for not only the boys, but their parents, who have seemingly come close to creating the perfect parent-child development system—providing unconditional support without pushing the kids in a self-serving direction.
“We always wanted them to be doing something, we encouraged them to be competitive and the best they could at whatever that was,” said T. Pat, a public relations/marketing whiz who moved to Leucadia at the age of 5 and has been in San Diego ever since, the past 23 years in Del Mar. “We didn’t care what it was but they always gravitated toward sports — they kind of led us.” It wasn’t sports, or specifically baseball, above all else though.
“We had a guitar in the house, a piano in the house and art runs in the family,” said San Diego native Marti Jo. “They were in art competitions as youngsters, always in the school plays and even singing.
“Sports-wise they played everything and, in our house, it was normal to have multiple balls, a golf club or a baseball bat in the living room. It was not abnormal for a kid to pick up a bat and take a swing in the house. There was no X-Box or video games and they were always outside playing some sport. Our kids were definitely never bubble-wrapped, they got some bruises.”
T. Pat, a self-proclaimed “beach rat,” made a name for himself professionally while working with a client list that included the San Diego Toyota Dealers, San Diego Zoo & Safari Park, and Nevada Hilton Properties, as well as several thoroughbred racing entities, one the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, where he was director of corporate development for 14 years. He also immersed himself in a wide range of community service activities such as the San Diego Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, Magadalena Ecke YMCA, San Dieguito Boys’ & Girls’ Club, the Del Mar Merchants Association, the Del Mar Village Association and the Del Mar Foundation. He was also a partner in the Pacifica Del Mar restaurant and is now vice president of Del Mar Stubbs, Inc. run by his wife. For him, parenting was an extension of what he himself had been afforded as a youngster.
“My parents gave me all the rope in the world to hang myself and I never did,” T. Pat smiled. “They let me have the opportunity to fail and I just learned from my mistakes.
“When we got married and had children, that’s probably one of the things Marti Jo and I have done every step of the way — given the boys the opportunity to fail — which has provided them opportunities to learn.”
The Stubbs boys made their organized baseball debuts four years apart in the Del Mar Little League, coached by their dad at Ashley Falls Field. Ironically, both played their first-year on teams called the Astros.
Not long after the boys started playing, T. Pat’s civic-mindedness kicked in on the baseball front, when he noticed that, unlike other neighboring communities, Del Mar did not have a baseball outlet for local kids outside of the Little League season. Outlined on a napkin at Jake’s Del Mar, Stubbs and two other fathers, Tim Malott and Greg McAtee, sowed the seeds of Powerhouse Baseball, hiring Del Mar baseball guru Kurtis Swanberg to be the coach and securing a home field at Del Mar Shores, overlooking the ocean.
Hoping to give local kids an opportunity to play travel baseball, the trio was looking to find 12 kids that could fill one Powerhouse team. Within a month of founding the program, they were shocked to have 120 kids signed up and 10 teams ready to go.
“There was such a desire for more competitive baseball opportunities than Little League was able to provide,” explained Stubbs. “We made it an open tryout and always prioritized local kids—it wasn’t about recruiting outside players and bringing them in.
“All we wanted to do was put kids, our own included, in an environment where they could learn to be competitive. It happened to be a sport — it happened to be baseball.”
According to Marti Jo, even in that advanced baseball setting, there were limits and an effort to keep the boys’ lives and interests balanced.
“You look around and see so many of these travel teams going all around the country,” she said. “Our boys didn’t even do a lot of the things that were fairly local — there’s a limit, where too much is too much and we didn’t ever want to reach that point.
“They loved baseball but they wanted to do other things as well. If things like Sunday school, academics or family vacations conflicted with baseball, they missed — we never pushed baseball first.” That didn’t mean they weren’t a visible presence.
“I mean we were supportive and we were at every game supporting in any way we could,” said Marti Jo. “But we also knew that life outside of baseball was really important to them too.” That philosophy was readily apparent to CJ growing up.
“At our house, it was always school first but Garrett and I always wanted to be outside and there was something intriguing to us about playing with a ball,” he said. “Both of our parents loved watching us play and we were appreciative of the fact that they were at every single game.
“They provided an unbelievable amount of support and just knowing we had that gave us strength to believe in ourselves.” His brother’s thoughts follow a related line.
“Mom and dad created an environment where we could choose and we were often reminded that if we ever wanted to stop playing baseball, they would be there to support us in whatever direction we went,” said Garrett. “As a kid, you feel a lot better about what you’re doing and put in a lot more when it’s something you want to do.”
As the boys continued to improve and Powerhouse took shape, the nature of T. Pat’s involvement shifted. It was another reflection of his own childhood.
“I was raised in a kind of service-above-self manner by my father,” he said. “I get involved with a lot of things because it’s the right thing to do, whether it’s Powerhouse or the Del Mar Summer Concert Series. I truly believe Del Mar is a better because those types of things are there.
“If it weren’t for volunteers they wouldn’t happen. The point is to make the community a better place. It was the same thing at Torrey Pines High School. We had a lot of great parents that helped make the program better.” He acknowledges his own limitations when it came to teaching the sport.
“I was always about them being coached by somebody else besides me,” said Stubbs. “I can talk with them about things outside of baseball. If they wanted to talk baseball, we would, but I was never the one to show them how to swing a bat or throw a ball.
“I was always there to throw pitches to them or play catch. Catch is a two-person game and it’s amazing the banter that can take place back-and-forth in a two-person game.”
Although their paths have been similar the Stubbs boys are not exactly a pair of identical twins separated by four years. “I would say their similarities are their athleticism and what’s above the shoulders,” says T. Pat. “The differences are purely physical.”
Now that the boys have grown into young adults, pursuing a joint passion with careers in mind, their parents have enjoyed being passengers on a ride that has produced an incredible series of highs over the last two months.
One such moment came on May 26. The Stubbs were in Corvallis, Oregon to see the USC-Oregon State series. After watching the Trojans knock off No. 12 Oregon State in CJ’s final collegiate contest, they got confirmation on the flight home that not only had Garrett been brought up to the majors to fill in for an injured player, but he would be making his first start for the Astros at home three days later against the Chicago Cubs.
Garrett had an auspicious debut, going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a 9-6 Houston victory. One week later CJ joined the Astros’ organization, all part of a whirlwind of emotion for their parents.
“At the end of the day, we’re so thrilled that they’re both doing what they love and have achieved great success because of that,” said Marti Jo. “I cried for a full 45 minutes when Garrett got called up.
“We got off the plane from Oregon at 10 p.m. Saturday night and were on a plane to Houston at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It’s a lifetime worth of dreams and now CJ’s following — it’s remarkable.”
Both of the boys are genuinely grateful for the roles their parents have played and have a unique understanding of what they draw from each.
“My dad was always very ‘go, go, go’ and I think both CJ and I get our aggressive, always pushing the limit and giving 100 percent attitudes from him,” said Garrett. “My mom is a very even-keeled person. When something goes wrong, she steps back, evaluates and then moves forward. As an athlete, you need both of those characteristics.”
CJ added, “From mom, I would say we got her incredible work ethic. Growing up she worked hard every single day and at home, it was all about us. It was kind of unfathomable, just watching her do what she did.
“And my dad is just the most loving, passionate person you’ll ever meet. Everything was positive. He’s been a huge supporter and inspires me to be a dad like him. Both of them saw something special in us and all of the hard work has paid off.”
T. Pat still views his sons’ accomplishments as part of a process but is also able to visualize outlandish possibilities while occasionally sounding awed by what has occurred.
“What they’ve done to this point, it’s an achievement, not a destination,” he said. “They got the honor but then you go out on the field and fight.
“The ultimate is that they continue to live the dream — achieve their successes and continue to adjust their goals as far as where they want to be in life and what they want to do.
“It would be absolutely wild if both were competing for the starting catcher job with the Houston Astros and platooning.” An outlandish longshot? Maybe not.
“When we started Del Mar Powerhouse baseball, did I ever envision it would still be going 20 years later and have a kid make the major leagues, let alone my own?” asked Stubbs rhetorically. “That wasn’t even a dream.”