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Where've you gone, Kurt Stillwell?
09/14/2002 2:40 PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- Since leaving baseball in 1996 after a 13-year career, Kurt Stillwell, a one-time San Diego Padres infielder, took his swings -- with a fly rod -- at the Lake Almanor Grand Slam.

That event involved catching rainbow and brown trout, king salmon and smallmouth bass.

Stillwell, who had 20 years of experience fishing the Lake Almanor region in Northern California, was a fly-fishing guide for Big League Outfitters. This spring, Stillwell, who lives in Poway in San Diego County, put down his fly rod and reeled in a job with one of the biggest fish (some owners might say shark) in baseball: super agent Scott Boras.

Stillwell, 37, has become an advisor for the Scott Boras Corp.

"My job is working the amateur division of the corporation," said Stillwell. "Basically I am looking for talent that could be in need of some advising and information and representation. What I've been doing this summer is watching some of the best college players in the country at the Cape Cod League, players who will be eligible for the draft in 2003 and 2004.

"Fly fishing is my passion. So it was something easy to get into when I left baseball after playing for the Texas Rangers in 1996. I used some of my baseball contacts with some fishing companies to get going. I had visited Lake Almanor since I was kid. That's where we would spend our summers and the offseason when I started playing baseball. It was an easy transition for me to get into the fishing-guide business and it gave me an excuse to spend summers in the mountains.

"It wasn't a big business, but it was a beautiful area. But last year I felt it was time to get into something more substantial . I really missed baseball and started to get the itch to get back into the game. At the same time my wife was pregnant with our second child, so it was kind of a blessing that I didn't have a job at that time. But come this past spring I made a few phone calls and wound up with this new job."

Stillwell played for the Padres in 1992 and part of 1993. He broke in with Cincinnati in 1986 and spent two seasons with the Reds before being dealt to Kansas City, where he was the regular shortstop for four seasons. He left the Royals as a free agent, signing with San Diego. He finished the '93 season with California, and after a two-year absence from the Majors, completed his career with Texas in 1996.

"As a ballplayer I was in positions that some of these kids are in," said Stillwell, who was the Reds' No. 2 pick overall in the 1983 First-Year Player Draft. "I've always been interested in the process of getting good information to kids through representation, which is a necessity. Baseball is such a big business.

"Professionally-speaking, representation is a must in this day and age. I've been through the whole process. I've been in every facet of the game. It was an exciting time for me coming out of high school with a lot of options of getting information from a guy whom I considered a very standup and sharp person in Scott Boras. And now I have the opportunity of working with him again. This is a good fit and has worked out well. And in the meantime I have been able to stay close to home with my family."

Stillwell is very honest in his assessment of his play with the Padres during the 1992 and 1993 seasons, in which he batted .227 and .215, respectively.

"I'm the kind of person who is a little embarrassed when I talk about my time in San Diego," Stillwell said. "I've always seen myself as a pretty good player but I came into a situation where I did not perform and I recognize that. And I have come to terms with that. Unfortunately it didn't work out for me.

"I came to San Diego having played shortstop my whole life. Tony Fernandez was playing shortstop and they picked me up to play second base. I guess I was a little naive thinking that I could over there and play well. Some might think it should be a pretty simple thing to do. It really wasn't. The big leagues is not the place to learn a whole new position. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don't want to make any excuses, but I came into a difficult situation that kind of set my career into a downward spiral."

When Stillwell played with the Reds, he played under player-manager Pete Rose, who gave him the nickname "Opie" from the old Andy Griffith TV show.

"I guess it was because I was a down-home, All-American kid, pretty clean cut, a straight-laced kid who didn't mouth off," Stillwell said. "It was amazing when I think about playing there as a 20-year-old kid. I'm more flabbergasted now looking back on some the players who were there: Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, Buddy Bell, Dave Parker, Bo Diaz. I will always be grateful to Pete because he gave me the opportunity at such a young age to play in the big leagues. He could have sent me back to Triple-A for seasoning. But he stayed with me and gave me a shot."

Stillwell's father Ron Stillwell was a Major Leaguer. He played 14 games for the Washington Senators, but his career was cut short when he collided with an outfielder in a Triple-A game.

"He went on to coach high school and college so I was around the ball park," said Stillwell. "He had the greatest effect on my career. He is still alive today and still a big fan of baseball, as am I and always will be."

Sandy Burgin covers the Padres for MLB.com and can be reached at Sandyburgin@hotmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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