ASU baseball starts its season next Friday, and as of yet, coach Tim Esmay still has some positions to fill.
But, shortstop is not one of them. Returning is junior Drew Stankiewicz who started 59 games last season, tied for a team high.
“Once you’ve established yourself in this program, there’s a reason why,” Esmay said. “You’ve earned the right to continue to be in that position.”
Stankiewicz was hurt during the fall, and Esmay said it was nice to be able to see the development of some his younger players.
Sophomore Jordan Aboites and freshman Colby Woodmansee spent some time at shortstop.
But Esmay said Stankiewicz is his shortstop.
“You’ve got to be the man, especially if you have a new third baseman, a new (second baseman),” Esmay said. “We really need him to be the quarterback of that thing. I think he’s done a really good job of that.”
Despite his coach’s support, Stankiewicz refused to believe that his position at shortstop this year was automatic.
“I’ve been working hard, because I need to earn it,” Stankiewicz said. “This spot isn’t just going to be handed to me. The coaches told me already, I need to earn it. … One thing we stress here is that you have to earn everything you do.”
And while he may pride himself on his glovework, it’s not as if he’s a slouch at the plate.
Stankiewicz hit .295 and tied for second on the team with seven stolen bases. He also had 15 extra-base hits and and an on-base percentage of .363.
Stankiewicz said playing in a defense-first position like shortstop, he can’t let a bad trip to the plate affect the way he plays defense.
“If you have a bad ‘AB,’ you strike out, you can’t take it back out to short,” Stankiewicz said. “You’re basically captain of the defense right then and there, so you can’t have your team looking at you, seeing you looking down.”
Last year it was James McDonald who played at second base alongside Stankiewicz. This year, Esmay’s options at the keystone include Aboites, Woodmansee and his son, redshirt junior Tucker Esmay and others.
While second base is important, shortstop is the most important position in the infield, and it’s Stankiewicz’s defense that will keep him at shortstop.
“I pride myself on my defense,” Stankiewicz said. “Offense, obviously that’s very important as well, but my dad always says, ‘Offense gets you to the bigs but defense keeps you there.’ ”
His defensive work hasn’t gone noticed. Esmay had high praise for his shortstop. And as long as it continues, Esmay will be happy.
“In my opinion, I thought he was the best defensive shortstop in the conference last year, and nothing has changed our position on that,” Esmay said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson