Stompers Re-sign Openly Gay Pitcher

Right-handed pitcher Sean Conroy, perhaps the most celebrated player in the short history of the Sonoma Stompers Professional Baseball Club, has agreed to terms on a contract that will bring him back to Sonoma for the 2016 season, the team’s General Manager, Theo Fightmaster said.

“Sean is a guy we were lucky to have last season, and we’re even luckier to have him come back to Sonoma,” Fightmaster said. “We know what he’s capable of – being one of the best pitchers in the league – and that puts us in a very good spot heading into the season.”

Conroy enjoyed a historic 2015 season, and was voted the Pacific Association’s top defensive pitcher, as well as being named league’s top relief pitcher.

The 23-year-old Clifton Park, New York, product pitched in 22 games for Sonoma, and Fightmaster said he was outstanding in his first year of professional baseball. The rookie had a 5-3 record with a 2.70 ERA, including 10 saves (second in the league among qualified pitchers), and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 52-15. Opposing batters hit just .192 against him with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.950, tops in the league among pitchers who pitched at least 20 innings.

Fightmaster said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Conroy was a true asset to the Stompers, pitching in a variety of roles. In addition to his four starts, Conroy appeared out of the bullpen 18 times, earning three wins along with his 10 saves. In the second half of the season, Conroy was used in a “fireman’s” role, pitching multiple innings of relief after coming in at the game’s most critical point – not simply in the final inning.

When opposing hitters put the ball in play against Conroy, their luck didn’t change much. They accumulated a meager .202 batting average in those at-bats. His component ERC was 1.986. (ERC is a baseball statistic invented by famed baseball statistician Bill James, and attempts to forecast a pitcher’s earned run average from the number of hits and walks allowed rather than the standard formula of average number of earned runs per nine innings.) Using that metric, Conroy was the second best pitcher in the Association, and best among pitchers who pitched more than 20 innings.

Conroy garnered international attention in late June becoming the first openly gay active professional baseball player. Conroy at that time made his first career start on the team’s Pride Night in spectacular fashion, pitching a complete game shutout against the Vallejo Admirals, allowing only three hits and striking out 11, leading the Stompers to a 7-0 victory in front of a packed house, hordes of reporters and television cameras.

“I’m happy I will have a chance to continue my career in Sonoma with the Stompers,” Conroy said. “Last year was so much fun, and such a great experience. My hope is that this year the team can improve on our success from last season and finish what we started.”

The Stompers finished the 2015 season with their second winning record in as many years, going 44-33. In the franchise’s inaugural campaign in 2014, Sonoma boasted a 42-36 record.

The Stompers open the season May 31, and start their home season in Sonoma on Tuesday, June 7, at 6 p.m. against the Vallejo Admirals.