Over the Plate With The Mate: #7

March 11, 2010

TEMPE, Ariz. -

During the 2010 baseball season, lefthander Josh Spence will be writing about his life as a student-athlete who prepares for his final season of college baseball as well as graduating from Arizona State. Spence will check in periodically to write about school, baseball, life and other things.

It’s been a week into March and a lot has happened since I've written last. We’ve played an exhibition game against a collegiate team from Japan, traveled to surprise for the Coca-Cola Classic and now were in preparation to play against Auburn from the SEC. On the school side of things, it’s been hectic. I’ve had some mid-term assignments to do and got a kick start for a few mid-term exams to study for coming up. I never really envisioned myself graduating but I guess what has got me through it is understanding that school is as hard as you want to make it. If you want to procrastinate about it then you’re obviously going to create a bigger problem when those unexpected things come up. Being a student-athlete is a busy lifestyle, but is also very rewarding knowing that a lot of people want to follow in your footsteps and play college baseball, just like I wanted to play college baseball when I was younger.

Right now we’re sitting on a 12-0 record (perfect? No), and though we’ve faced some adversity which has been good for the ball-club, we understand that it will be nothing compared to what the Pac-10 is going to be like this year. A big thing about playing for Arizona State is the fact we don’t necessarily talk about other teams, just that the Pac-10 is good and we need to respect our opponents but fear none. I’ve never been a strong believer in confidence or focus because to me they are just words people who don’t understand how to compete use when things are going good. As far as I'm concerned, confidence never leaves you, as well as focus, motivation and any other adjectives you want to throw out there. I feel that this team has a good understanding of that, and so far you can say we’ve “come to play”. But the season is still young and were just going to keep playing one game at a time.  

Going back a little while now, it was a great experience to be able to play against Meiji University. They traveled from Japan and are playing college teams from around the country. I’ve been very fortunate to go to Japan and play there when I was younger, and if there’s one regret this season, it’s that when I was asked by one of my teammates on how they should face the pitcher I said something like “oh he’ll probably junk ya”; but instead I should of relaxed the kid and told him that it’s the same game no matter where in the world you play it. If I can learn from my mistakes, that’s only going to make me better right?! It was a good win that night and Alex Blackford got his first start as a Sun Devil with Xorge Carrillo behind the plate. Unfortunately for guys like Zach Wilson and Deven Marrero who tore it up with the stick, the stats won’t count but it was great to learn about how another culture goes about playing the game.

The next day we traveled to Surprise in preparation for the Coca-Cola Classic, were the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals really looked after not only us, but the participating teams. Our first game we faced a fierce Cal Poly were we showed that we can win in more ways than one, with Raoul Torrez hitting his first career grand-slam to give us a come-from-behind victory. It was a great game, although I probably wouldn’t be saying that if the sparks in our line-up like Zach MacPhee and Drew Maggi didn’t come through with some clutch at bats. We never got to face Cal Poly in the regional we hosted last year and something tells me that this is not the only time we’ll be facing the Mustangs this year.

The next day we played against Oregon State for a non-conference game and it was good to see freshman Brady Rodgers and Jake Barrett come through for us on the bump to hold OSU and give us a chance to win. OSU isn’t a team that’s going to strike out a lot and they fight every at bat, it’s going to be a hard fought series when we see them in the Pac-10.

Note: we got to watch Zach Greinke of the Royals pitch that day, and he was filthy! Filthy being a good thing in baseball terms.

In our third game of the series we played UC Riverside and even though it took awhile, the bats came alive as we pounded 22 hits through the 9 innings. Jimmy Paterson got his second start of the year and knowing Jimmy for three years now, it was good to see him have a characteristically good outing like I'm used to seeing out of him. Even though Drew Maggi went 4-4 and we did pick up a season high 22 hits, the highlight of the night was watching Brandon Magee get his first career hit. This guy is a stud! His commitment to the team is second to none, and for someone who is fulfilling his obligations with the football team and their offseason duties as well as taking care of business inside the classroom, I really admire the type of character he has. Brandon is one of the best teammates you could ask for, and to see how hard he has worked this year and how he competes with every opportunity he gets, it was just one of those moments you know you’ll be talking about for a long time. I know that when I'm done playing, not everyone is going to say I was the best teammate, no matter how hard I try and that’s just the reality for each and every guy who plays, who coaches this game, who’s generally around this game but I don’t think anyone could ever attach that to Brandon. He is a special guy.

Brandon’s hit might have been the highlight of the day but the highlight of the season was having the opportunity to shake hands with strikeout legend Nolan Ryan! The man’s a legend and even though he’s been out of the game for some time now, he probably still throws harder than me. I remember watching him pitch and he threw gas! It just shows you what type of guy he is for standing outside the dugout and talking with us and the Texas fans for over an hour, it was awesome!

Our last game in Surprise was a real test, it was against Florida International. This game is a lot more mental then it appears, and rain can sometimes mess with the mind. I was told this at a very young age, you need to prepare like a game is going to be played until someone sits you down, looks you in the eye and says “we’re not playing today!”. Undoubtedly, our approach could have been better today and before we knew it we were one run down.  Some freshman heroics by Andrew Aplin kept us in the game and Mitchell Lambson came in and did what he always does, which is give us '0' all night long. The rain interrupted play during the 8th and it wasn't long before they called the game. It definitely was a shame we couldn't finish it off.

Looking back over the week, this is what we want to do for a living; that is playing ball every day. Being at a spring training facility and away from school, it definitely gave us a small taste of what life could be like at the next level if we choose to work hard enough at the game. Right now though, were Sun Devils and I think I can speak on behalf of the team when I say were proud of that.

We’re now into our fourth week of the season and second mid-week game thus far. This time we played Grand Canyon from across the Valley. For two teams from Arizona, this night was extremely unlike the weather in which it should have been played in. It was windy, rainy and cold; yes it was perfect baseball weather as we’ve become accustomed to lately. It was a hard fought game in which they jumped us early but with the clutch 2 strike, 2 out hit from “the mayor” himself, Kole Calhoun (that was a self given nick name for the record, ha-ha just kidding, he’s going to kill me for that now) put us in a situation to take the momentum from GCU and we did with more two out heroics from Raoul and Wilson the next inning. Barrett and Swags, in their two combined innings, struck out 6 batters and really solidified the win for us. I think one of the great things about baseball is how small the community really can be. It wasn’t too long ago I was competing against Kole at community college here in Arizona. I’ll always say he got the best of me when we played each other and he’ll always say I got the best of him, but regardless of the past, it’s nice to know now that we’re in this one together and there’s no one I want more on my team then that guy; He comes from a loving family, he gives so much to the program, he’s just one of those guys you can’t help but root for. He’s playing great for us right now and I know this sounds stupid, but the best baseball is yet to come from him, and that’s what I believe.

We’ll, I better get some sleep, early day of classes tomorrow.

Take care

Josh Spence

Feel free to email me at overtheplate@gmail.com I’ve been real lazy with the replies lately but I promise, you’ll be hearing form me shortly.


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