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Steve Cishek Returns to Hometown as Baseball Operations Assistant

06/21/2023 8:48 AM

Article By: Daniel Curren

When Steve Cishek walked off the mound at Guv Fuller Field for the last time in 2004, he could not have predicted what was ahead. The senior at Falmouth High School had committed to continue pitching, joining Carson-Newman University to play Division II baseball. At the time, his goals were just to pitch at the collegiate level and come out with a Physical Education degree. An eventual 13-year career in the Major Leagues was not on his mind, but Cishek was certain of one thing; Falmouth would always be his home.

Cishek was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB draft by the Florida Marlins. After a few successful seasons in the Minors, he was invited to play in MLB's Arizona Fall League in 2010. While playing in a game for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Cishek looked into the crowd and saw a familiar face, former Falmouth teammate Chris Fitzgerald.

A 2006 graduate of Falmouth High, Fitzgerald was studying history at the University of Arizona when his old friend was in town. He and Cishek began playing baseball together in little league and continued to do so through high school.

"Stevie is probably one of the most humble, nicest people I've ever met," Fitzgerald remarked of his former teammate. "He doesn’t seem 'big league' at all, he's a local Falmouth kid through and through."

Fitzgerald is now the General Manager of the Falmouth Commodores. He is in his fifth season with the local team. Cishek, meanwhile, officially announced his retirement from Major League Baseball at the end of 2022.

In his first free summer in 19 years, Fitzgerald reached out to see if Cishek wanted to work with the Commodores. Cishek eagerly accepted.

"That's something I enjoyed towards the tail end of my career. Being the veteran guy on the team and especially helping guys walk through failure and not, you know, they may be handling adversity for the first time," Cishek said. "I just love being able to help guys through that and mechanics, like anything, just talking baseball.

Cishek is in his first year working as a Special Assistant in Baseball Operations for the Commodores. Fitzgerald and the rest of the coaching staff are excited to see the impact he makes on the team.

"I mean, he's bringing in about 13 years of MLB experience, which, to these players is critical," Fitzgerald. "He's probably seen it all. So, you know, I think that's one of the big things with the coaching staff."

Throughout his childhood, Cishek could be found planted behind home plate playing wiffle ball at Commodores games. It was a part of growing up in the area. He has used his success to give back to the community, especially those playing youth baseball.

In 2015, Cishek and Fitzgerald worked together to create the Steve Cishek Winter Wiffle Ball Classic, a tournament that fundraises money for Falmouth Youth Baseball.

The tournament, held every year on the Saturday between Christmas and New Years, features over 20 teams with 3-4 people each. The games are played by adults who can then give back to the kids. Due to COVID, the event hasn’t taken place since before the pandemic. However, Cishek and Fitzgerald are looking to bring it back this year, and Cishek is looking to add a summer tournament now that he is retired.

“This is home to me still and you know, I miss it up here a lot.” Said Cishek, who now lives in Florida. “I want to see the community thrive and the young kids have the same experience that I had. I think that’s what motivates me the most is just the kids just being outdoors and playing games, playing little league ball and growing up and loving the same sport like I did.”

Cishek has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Falmouth Youth Baseball over the years with this tournament.

“He’s so dialed into the community,” Fitzgerald said. “When he’s home, it’s like, everyone’s talking about, you know, the fish he caught. Or, you know, ‘I saw you went golfing the other day, how’d you hit?’ or ‘how’s your mom? I saw your dad the other day.’”

Throughout his big league career, Cishek made sure to never forget where he came from. In 2017, MLB hosted its first player's weekend. All players got to put a nickname on the back of their jersey for a weekend, one that they got to choose. Despite being given nicknames like “Shrek” or “Shek” throughout his professional baseball career, he opted to put “speedpass” on his back.

“Speedpass” is a nickname that was given to Cishek by his friends in Falmouth. When he worked at a local Mobil gas station, the company had a “speedpass” wand that customers could use as a credit card to pump their gas. One day when Cishek was pumping someone’s gas, his high school catcher drove by the station, rolled down the window, and screamed “Speedpass!” At the top of his lungs. From there, it stuck.

Cishek is commonly known by that name in the Falmouth area, and he brought it with him to the Major Leagues.

“I just wanted to make sure people knew my roots.” Cishek said.

Cishek attended his first Commodores game in his new role on Tuesday night against the Orleans Firebirds. Before the game, he began getting to know the Falmouth players.

“I was talking to AJ Causey who’s a side-armer who watched me pitch before,” Cishek said. “He’s actually showing me his pitch sequences although we throw almost identical in terms of how we like to attack guys, so it’s pretty cool to be able to have those conversations with someone so young.”

Those interactions were exactly what Fitzgerald was looking forward to when he brought his lifelong friend on board. Not just with the Falmouth players, but everyone in the community.

“I think it’s special,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope a lot of kids get to meet him. And yeah, you start to realize that, you know, anyone from the area can make it.”