When DJ Stewart first stepped onto the grass at Hugh Donovan Field in Bolles, he never imagined where the baseball road would take him.
“You want to come here and do your best and do your best for your teammates and yourself and hope that one day people will remember you for what you did on the pitch,” he said. stated, “but never anything like that.”
Now a Major League Baseball outfielder with the American League’s Baltimore Orioles, Stewart returned home on Monday to have his jersey retired by Bolles ahead of the Bulldogs’ preseason opener against Providence.
A 2012 Times-Union First Coast Player of the Year and multi-sport athlete at Bolles, Stewart won five state championships with the Bulldogs – two in baseball (2009 and 2010) and three in football (2008, 2009 and 2011). ) .
“He was a leader in that area,” Bolles baseball coach Mike Boswell said. “He made everyone around him better. As coaches he made us better, and as players they took over.”
Now 28, Stewart has twice won All-American honors at Florida State, capturing ACC Player of the Year in 2014, and received a first-round MLB Draft selection at No. 25. with the Orioles in 2015.
He is entering what would be his fifth season on the Orioles roster. He appeared in 100 games in 2021, more than his previous three seasons combined, batting .204 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
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The question now is when will his next moment on the major league diamond come. Like hundreds of other Major League Baseball players, Stewart has been in limbo since MLB owners imposed a lockout in early December 2021.
“We’re just waiting to come to an agreement and then we go to spring training and start,” he said.
Stewart’s No. 1 becomes the fourth number to retire at Bolles, joining former coach Don Suriano’s No. 2, Atlanta Braves infielder Chipper Jones’ No. 10 and No. 19 from former Chicago Cubs wide receiver Rick Wilkins.
“You come here and you see guys like the name Chipper Jones up there, a guy I’ve watched grow up all my life,” Stewart said. “To see my name up there next to him, a Hall of Famer, it’s just a really special moment.”
But while the No.1 is slated for retirement, Bolles is yet to put away the number. That’s because Keegan Stewart, DJ’s younger brother, is wearing the jersey right now, a sophomore outfielder who plans to wear number 1 for the rest of his Bulldogs career before the number officially comes in. in full retirement.
The brothers combined, DJ at Keegan, on the first ceremonial pitch to open the preseason.
DJ Stewart said he hopes the next wave of Bulldogs will learn from his example.
“I was in their shoes, and they can do it too if they work hard,” he said.
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.