Editorial: Making Sparky proud

ASU isn’t always considered an athletic powerhouse. A solid program? Yes. But not a powerhouse in the category of a USC or Florida or North Carolina, where the alumni list is filled with Hall of Famers and All-Stars in a number of different sports.

But this past weekend, two former Sun Devils achieved major accomplishments, adding to an already impressive list of feats accomplished by ASU alumni.

First, the big one. Phil Mickelson, ASU class of 1992, won his third career Masters Tournament after finishing 16-under par at Augusta National Golf Course. It should be noted the first thing he did after earning his third green jacket was walk straight to his wife, a cancer survivor, and hug her tightly — another sign of class from Lefty at a time when the sport’s other big name has been sleeping with porn stars, orchestrating horribly mangled apologies and fixing the crowd at said apology to include only his friends.

Lefty’s career both during his tenure at ASU and after has been one of constant success and is something every Sun Devil should strive for. At ASU, Mickelson was a four-time first team All-American, winning NCAA Titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992 and a school-record 16 tournaments.

Mickelson then began his successful PGA career, but soon earned a reputation as “always a bridesmaid but never a bride,” never winning a major championship in his first 12 years on the PGA Tour despite numerous second-place finishes. But the ASU alum persevered, throwing the proverbial monkey off his back with a dramatic Masters victory in 2004. He won the Masters again in 2006, and now he has opened up the new decade with another Masters win.

But Mickelson wasn’t the only former Sun Devil who accomplished something great this past weekend. Former ASU ace pitcher Mike Leake, who last pitched for ASU in 2009, became only the 21st player in MLB history to skip the minor leagues entirely and go straight to the majors. And in his historic debut for the Cincinnati Reds, Leake did not disappoint.

The former National College Player of the Year pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing a mere four hits and one run while striking out five Chicago Cubs. He walked seven batters, but showed the same calmness Mickelson did in winning the Masters, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and making big pitches when they counted most. He kept the Reds in the game, and left to a standing ovation in the seventh inning. He also recorded two hits in his first two major league at-bats for good measure, becoming the first Reds pitcher to do that since 1929.

Mickelson and Leake are hardly the only former Sun Devils making waves in the sports world right now. James Harden, quite possibly the best basketball player in ASU history, has been averaging 10 points per game as the first man off the bench for the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder.

For now, Mickelson and Leake are on the top of the sports world. With Harden, Indiana Fever guard Briann January, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and golfer Anna Nordqvist, among others, taking prominent places in athletics nationwide, ASU alumni truly are on top of the sports world. From current Sun Devils to former ones, congratulations Phil and Mike, we are all proud of you.

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