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Friday March 7, 2014 Stanley's versatility blossomed at UF on way to stellar big-league career

Updated: 10:47am, March 7

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his four seasons with the Gators baseball team, Mike Stanley came through time and time again in one of the program’s most distinguished careers.

Stanley is back in town this weekend to be inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

A three-time All-SEC selection, Stanley is one of just six players in school history to accomplish that feat. Stanley’s versatility and his bat set him apart. 

He also made the All-SEC Tournament three times: at three different positions – catcher, third base and first base.

Stanley did all this while battling various nagging injuries during his college career.

“You want to talk about a fighter, a guy who plays in pain and gives it everything he has every time he steps on the field, you’re talking about Mike,’’ former Gators assistant coach Dusty Rhodes once said. “He’s the kind of player others follow.”

Florida State coach Mike Martin was even a fan of Stanley’s no-nonsense approach to the game and his obvious talent.

“When he’s on he can dominate a game with his bat,’’ Martin told the Gainesville Sun in 1985. “Stanley’s the kind of player a successful team needs.”

Stanley was also known for as one of the Gators’ most superstitious players.

“I’m the absolute worst,” he once said.

Stanley would hang is uniform in his locker the same way every day. He would swing his bat the same number of times before each trip to the plate. Each time he got a hit, he would put in a fresh chew.

Stanley hit .350 in 217 career games at UF with 45 doubles, 22 home runs and 153 RBIs. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1985 and spent 15 years in the major leagues, the longest professional career of any UF player in history.

Stanley’s reputation as a gamer followed him into the big leagues, where he had some of his best seasons in the limelight of New York. As starting catcher for the Yankees (photo above is Stanley and late Yankees great Joe DiMaggio in 1994), Stanley won an American League Silver Slugger Award in 1993 and was named an American League All-Star in 1995.

One of Stanley’s most memorable moments came early in his career when he was with Texas and caught the final of Nolan Ryan’s record seven no-hitters. He also shined in an ALDS game for Boston against Cleveland in 1999, becoming just the fourth player in major league history to get five hits in a postseason game.

Stanley retired in 2000 after playing in 1,467 games in the majors with five different organizations.

Former Red Sox manager Joe Kerrigan, who once hired Stanley as Boston’s bench coach, had this to say: “He’s a man that comes with a lot of respect and integrity not only as a player but a person.”

They said the same thing about Stanley during his time at UF, where he returns to join the Gators Athletics Hall of Fame.

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