Jeff Stock grew up wanting to follow his dad into Major League Baseball.
Instead, he became one of the most popular players for the Sounders during their NASL days, then took the lessons he learned from sports into a successful career as a businessman.
So everything worked out in the end for Stock, 58, even if it didn’t go entirely as planned.
Jeff’s father, Wes, grew up in Longview and played baseball for Washington State before a nine-year career in the major leagues (1959-67). Wes got into coaching and was the pitching coach in Oakland when the team won World Series titles in 1973 and 1974.
“Baseball,” said Jeff, when asked where his heart was growing up. “I grew up in ballparks, like I thought every other kid did when they were 11. They’d throw an Oakland A’s uniform on me, and (1971 American League MVP) Vida Blue would throw me batting practice. I’d shag balls with (Hall of Famer) Reggie Jackson and that was just how I grew up. That was my life and I thought it was normal.”
The Mariners gave Wes a chance to come back to his home state when they hired him to be their first pitching coach in 1977, and the family moved to Tacoma.
Jeff attended Stadium High School, playing baseball, but also excelling in soccer, playing for the Norpoint Royals, the famed club team. Stock pitched and played first base and center field.
UCLA offered him a combined baseball and soccer scholarship, but not getting any interest from major-league teams made him adjust.
“I didn’t get drafted (in baseball), so bottom line, I wasn’t good enough,” Jeff said.
The Sounders were interested in Stock, but he wasn’t really interested in them, until he was invited to a playoff game.
“I’m in their suite, and you’ve got 50,000 people there, and I thought, ‘Maybe I might look at that,’ ” Stock said.
He decided to sign with the Sounders rather than attend UCLA, but there was one problem. Stock was 17 and needed a parent to co-sign.
“Dad says, ‘No, you are going to UCLA,’” Jeff said.
Jeff was adamant, deciding he would sign when he turned 18 on Aug. 1.
“We argued about it for a couple of days,” Jeff said. “Then he said, if they give you scholarship money, I will let you sign.”
So, Stock went to UW for a quarter, but soccer obligations became too much.
Stock competed for the United States in the Pan American Games and was on the U.S. squad that qualified for the 1980 Olympics, but did not play in them when the U.S. boycotted those Moscow Games.
To get ready for the Sounders, the team sent him and fellow rookie Mark Peterson, Stock’s teammate with Norpoint, to England to train with West Ham and Bournemouth. It was a real education.
“They are tough on you, and they are tough on you at an early age,” Stock said. “We were 17 or 18, but if you don’t do the right thing, they’ll have a go at you. I’ve seen guys fold. You are either going to make it or break it. It matured us, the three or four months we were over there. I got a lot stronger physically and mentally, and I am sure the players saw that, too, when we came back.”
Stock played five years for the Sounders (1979-83) as the starting left fullback, helping the team reach the 1982 title game. He blew out his knee in the 1983 season, the final year of the NASL franchise before it folded. He later spent two years with the Tacoma Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League and two with the Seattle Storm of the Western Soccer Alliance before retiring as a player after the 1988 season.
By then, he was already into his next career.
“When I hurt my knee in 1983, I started selling real estate,” said Stock, who has been married to his wife, Leanne, for 38 years. “I hooked up with a partner and we were selling commercial properties. We were thinking, ‘We’re getting all these guys good deals, why don’t we do it?’ So we started buying properties.”
In 1991, Stock bought Wild Waves amusement park in Federal Way and ran that until 2000, when the park was purchased by Six Flags. Stock came back to run Wild Waves in 2010 when CNL Lifestyle Properties purchased the park. His second stint with Wild Waves ended in 2016, when the park was sold again, but Stock still owns the land.
Stock, who lives in Tacoma, has two sons, 34 and 32, and three grandkids ranging from 10 to 6. He is a big fan of the MLS Sounders, not missing a game. Father Wes, 85, is doing well and loves watching the Mariners on TV.
Jeff spends his work time now growing Caffe D’arte, a Seattle-based coffee-roasting business he has owned for 14 years. He uses what he learned in soccer in business.
“It’s the same thing,” he said. “You get out of it what you put into it. Dedication, discipline and determination. It’s the same thing as soccer. It’s personnel. You surround yourself with smart, good people and you let them go to work. Let them do the job.”