Baseball: Andy Topham
May 24, 2002
It's rare to catch Andy Topham without a smile on his face.
'I like to enjoy the game,' he says. 'I always like to have a smile on my face.'
The senior shortstop has given Cardinal fans a lot to smile about throughout his Stanford career, especially his dazzling defensive play.
With soft hands, a lightning-quick sidearm release that can throw runners out from any angle and outstanding range, Topham brings an effortless grace to fielding that makes tough plays look routine and routine plays look downright easy.
This year, Topham made a midseason transition to shortstop after starting in left field as a sophomore, and at third base as a junior and in the first part of this season. A move that was expected to be temporary became permanent as Topham has routinely ranged far behind second base and deep in the hole to turn hits into outs.
Over the last two seasons, Topham has combined with fellow seniors Scott Dragicevich, Chris O'Riordan, and Arik VanZandt to form one of the finest defensive infields in college baseball and in Stanford history. Last year the quartet led the squad to the nation's best fielding percentage and a team record .977 mark, and the Cardinal are only slightly off that pace this season at .971.
In addition to his defense, Topham has also developed a reputation for coming up with big hits in clutch situations. Cardinal fans will always remember Joe Borchard's game tying three-run homer in the ninth inning of the second game of the 2000 Regional against Alabama, but they will also recall that it was Topham who won the game with a two-out RBI single later in the inning. Just over two weeks later, Topham delivered again with an inspirational grand slam that started a Cardinal comeback from a 6-0 deficit to a stirring victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in the College World Series and vaulted the club into the CWS championship game.
In 2001, Topham hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat arch-rival USC and had his first career two-homer game in a 10-9 victory over Texas in the first championship game of the NCAA Regional. This season, he blasted a clutch two-out, two-run homer to snatch a crucial Friday night contest away from Arizona State.
Over his career, Topham has batted .343 in NCAA Regional action and .304 in Super Regional play.
'I've had some offensive success in big spots, but I can't really explain it,' Topham says. 'I take the same approach in those situations as I do in the first at bat of a game or when we are up by 15 runs. I'm just fortunate I've helped the team when I could.'
When he's not lighting it up on the field, Topham is lightening up the clubhouse. On the bus or during practice, he is always ready with a wry observation or a clever wisecrack.
'I'm a competitor and I always want to win, but that's not everything to me,' he says. 'I try to make it fun. Whether I go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I try to have the same positive attitude.'
As the 2002 season comes to a close, Topham is wrapping up another sparkling campaign. Along with his glovework, he has posted a .318 batting average, five homers, 36 RBI, and seven stolen bases, despite missing over three weeks with a hamstring injury. With the postseason just around the corner, the Cardinal will look to Topham's defense and clutch hitting to help carry the team toward a fourth consecutive College World Series.
Although focused on the task at hand, the Cardinal and its fans will greatly miss Topham after the season concludes, as he looks forward to pro ball and beyond. Eventually, Topham hopes to bring his infectious smile to children as an elementary school teacher.
'I think I'd be good at it, and I'd enjoy it,' Topham says. 'Inside I feel like I'm just a big little kid.'
Topham's one regret about his Stanford career is that he was not able to convince Coach Marquess to switch the team back to white spikes, a la his beloved Oakland A's.
'I'm absolutely in love with white shoes,' he explains. 'I keep getting on Coach to switch but he won't. You never know though. We had them before and we may again.'
Now that would put a smile on Topham's face, if he wasn't smiling already.
by Nick Kapur