Senior outfielder Kasey Coffman was up to bat last year during the second game of the series against Cal. There were runners on first and second and two outs with ASU down by three runs.
Coffman hit a home run and tied the game.
Now a minor league player for the Detroit Tigers, Coffman said it took time to realize his potential as an athlete and that he wasn’t always such a successful player.
“I couldn’t figure out how to mentally handle failures in baseball,” he said.
Coffman said his failures on the field as a freshman and sophomore made him work harder at practice.
“As a freshman, I was basically ignored and pushed to the side,” he said. “You’re expected to watch and come back stronger next season.”
He said the first time he played against Cal as a sophomore, he didn’t help ASU win when it needed it. He was up to bat with a runner on third and one out when he hit a weak pop-up to the second baseman.
“I had a direct impact on the outcome of that game,” Coffman said. “That killed me.”
Coffman said he questioned his work ethic and whether he would ever succeed in the sport.
“I got to the point where I stopped caring about the results so much and stopped thinking and started being confident in who I was as a person and as an athlete,” he said.
He said he stopped worrying so much about his physical strength and started thinking more about the nature of the sport. The mental aspect of baseball is the hardest to master, Coffman said, and it is finding confidence in oneself and being able to perform well when it matters most that is important.
“When you get on the field, you are playing to win, but you are also carrying the ASU tradition on your shoulder,” he said.
Tim Esmay, head coach of the ASU baseball team, said Coffman is a living prodigy of the Sun Devil commitment.
“He was that guy we wanted in the box,” he said.
Esmay said Coffman was one of three baseball players nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award last year. He said he believed Coffman should have been the recipient of the award because of his dedication to the sport.
“He has will over skill, and he has the potential to make a career out of it,” Esmay said.
Sophomore third baseman Dalton DiNatale said he has seen Coffman grow so much in the short time he has known him.
“There is no one more passionate about playing baseball than Kasey,” he said.
DiNatale said he would always wonder what Coffman was thinking when he was at bat and that Coffman’s confidence inspired him.
“He believes so much in himself,” he said. “Adopting that mindset has helped me on the field.”
DiNatale said he admired Coffman’s confidence and his ability to maintain his composure while batting.
Coffman said he loves the competitive nature of the sport. The game is composed of individual battles that will help the teamwin the war, he said.
Sophomore first baseman David Graybill has known Coffman since freshman year of high school, when the two played on the Brophy College Preparatory baseball team.
“Kasey is an animal,” Graybill said. “He is a killer. He goes 100 percent all the time.”
Graybill watched Coffman transition from a strong athlete to a smart one and learned a lot from him during that time, he said.
“He didn’t do well sophomore year,” Graybill said. “The biggest difference to junior year was the mental aspect.”
Coffman said he started succeeding on the field the second he became more confident.
“Are you going to be scared and shy away from a challenge or are you going to embrace it?” he said.
Coffman said he plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in justice studies and a minor in sociology and continue to play for the Detroit Tigers upon graduation.
“I have nothing to lose,” Coffman said.
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