Steven D’Amico bears the brunt of the jokes inside the St. Joseph Mustangs clubhouse.
At 29-years-old, he is closer to the age of the coaching staff than many of his teammates.
“They do give me a lot of crap about being the old guy, but I take it,” D’Amico said with a smile. “It’s with the territory, and I enjoy every single day of it.
“The best part about being the old guy and being around all these people is they help me stay young. I think they all look up to me in a way of 'been there, done that.' I have a lot of life experience.”
D’Amico has established himself as one of the top strikeout getters in the MINK league, entering Wednesday’s matchup with Chillicothe with 34 on the year.
This is all from a guy who only got back into baseball within the last five years after being away from the game for more than half of a decade.
After graduating from Shawnee Mission South and not finding ways to balance schooling and baseball at Johnson County Community College, he needed a life change.
“My dad had me talk to the recruiter, and I told my dad before, ‘I’m not gonna join. It’s a no-go. I’m not a big military guy, heart’s not in it.’ Within five minutes of talking to the recruiter … I was thinking about where I was in life and thought this is definitely the best thing for me right now,” D’Amico said. “Five minutes of talking to the recruiter changed my mind. I went into it with an optimistic view and enjoyed every single day of it.
“I wouldn’t take that back for anything.”
D’Amico enlisted in the United States Navy and went on to be stationed in Jacksonville and Washington, on his way to becoming an avionics electronics technician.
He was eventually in Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, India and Hawaii to round out a 5½ year stint in the military.
During his time serving the country, something was missing, though.
“I made it a point six months before my end point in the military to get back into baseball. I went out, bought a bucket of balls and went out to a softball field and just threw against a fence for six months,” D’Amico said. “I just said, ‘Hey, I think I’ve got something left in the tank.’”
A tryout of just 10 pitches led to an immediate signing with Maple Woods Community College. He went on to win last year’s College World Series with Coastal Carolina before wrapping up his career at Central Missouri.
On Thursday, he will make an appearance at the MINK League All-Star Game for the Mustangs.
"I really think it helps our young guys out a bit. Not many guys can say they didn't start their college career until the age of 24,” manager Matt Johnson said. “I commend him on that because he did that 5 years in the military service where he knew he wasn't ready for college and wanted to give something back to his country."