Spence to bolster pitching squad

02-19-09 baseball
Junior left-handed pitcher Josh Spence plays catch with a teammate to warm up at Wednesday’s practice. (Erik Hilburn/The State Press)
Published On:
Thursday, February 19, 2009
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Just when you thought you had your fill of Australian vernacular turned American cliché, throw another idiom on the barbie, mate.

Yeah, you might be Australian if you say “shez-apples.”

Australian native and ASU junior pitcher Josh Spence has everyone in the dugout repeating the word that likely won’t be found in a dictionary.

“It means, ‘it’s good.’ I guess you could [spell] it with a ‘z’. Makes it a little lazier, whatever is easiest,” Spence said.

Spence grew up near Melbourne and graduated from St. Joseph’s College Prep near Victoria. Growing up, he tried his hands and feet at the most popular Australian sports.

“I wasn’t any good at them. I tried tennis, cricket, soccer, basketball, Australian football, and I was terrible at everything,” Spence said.

Then a friend talked him into playing baseball. He ended up having the strongest arm on the team.

Before discovering his raw talent, Spence had no idea a game would lead him off the continent.

“I found myself pitching and focused on it as a freshman in high school,” he said.

The pitcher started doing his homework on colleges across the country on the Internet. With a similar climate and a top-notch program, Spence found a match in Tempe.

“I love it [at ASU],” Spence said. “I am just here to get a good education and play baseball. I am learning a lot [and] being so close to Mexico [I can] kind of learn a little bit about the culture and speak a little Spanish. Stuff I never thought I would do.”

Spence has adjusted well to the states blending in with what he considers a diverse set of teammates.

If seen on campus, one can spare him the inconvenience: No, Australians don’t drink Foster’s.

“I come over here and everyone thinks Outback Steakhouse and Foster’s,” Spence said.

It’s not the only stereotype Spence has had to fight.

“It’s a good opportunity for [teammates] to understand that baseball isn’t just an American sport. It has been fun putting a little bit of my culture into the program. I brought a few boomerangs back for spring break. [I’ve been] trying to teach them how to kick a football instead of throw it,” Spence said.

The left-hander hopes his time at ASU will stick out in the annals for more than just being a foreigner.

Spence is stepping into the Sun Devil rotation having pitched two dominating seasons at Central Arizona College in Coolidge. He brings a 27-7 record, 1.40 era and a six-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio to the second slot behind Mike Leake.

“I was a big fish in a small pond,” Spence said.

So what should ASU fans expect of Spence’s pitching style?

“Anything, anytime,” he said.

For those wondering, that’s Australian for, ‘Good luck hitting me.’

Reach the reporter at nick.ruland@asu.edu.