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After injury, Workman’s journey marches on

Back on the Base Paths: ASU junior outfielder Andy Workman sprints to first base against Delaware on Feb. 26 in Tempe. It was Workman’s first game back after missing the entire 2010 season with a foot injury. (Photo by Scott Stuk)
Back on the Base Paths: ASU junior outfielder Andy Workman sprints to first base against Delaware on Feb. 26 in Tempe. It was Workman’s first game back after missing the entire 2010 season with a foot injury. (Photo by Scott Stuk)

Walk-up music rarely tells a story.

The songs are usually an attempt to muster up last minute energy before staring down pitchers.

But in the 10 seconds of Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On” that belts from the speakers as ASU redshirt junior outfielder Andy Workman walks to the plate, fans get a glimpse of the man’s journey that is so much longer than from the dugout to the batter’s box.

The injury

Playing as a freshman at ASU is a big deal.

Reserved for only the elite, the Sun Devil lineup is always cluttered with former All-State high school players and future MLB draft picks.

Workman arrived in Tempe fresh out of Hamilton High School in Chandler. At the powerhouse prep school, Workman was not only captain of his baseball team, but captain of the state champion football squad as well.

"He was basically a coach out there," said ASU senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson, Workman's teammate at Hamilton. "We had a slogan for him: 'touchdown for Andy.' He was a good player."

In his first collegiate at-bat, playing alongside Sun Devil greats like Ike Davis and Brett Wallace, Workman knocked an RBI single down the left field line as a pinch-hitter against then-No. 3 Vanderbilt.

Not a bad start.

He ended up appearing in 44 games for ASU that season, racking up an on-base percentage of .344 for a team that lost in the Super Regionals to eventual national champion Fresno State.

As a sophomore, Workman started 13 times and appeared in one game at the College World Series.

Everything was set for him to come back as a true junior and take the next step in playing time.

But it wasn’t meant to be; his feet tripped him up.

“I hurt my foot in the fall, and kept playing on it,” he said. “They thought it was just inflammation in my tendon, so I just kept playing. But over winter break, I was hitting with a buddy and I took a ball off the tip of my toe and broke it. So when they x-rayed that they saw the other broken bones too.”

Workman was in a walking boot for six months afterwards, causing him to miss the entire 2010 season.

The lost season

Amid chaos surrounding the program with the departure of former coach Pat Murphy, everyone knew the Sun Devils still had a top-flight team in 2010.

Those beliefs were only amplified when ASU won its first 24 games of the season.

But Workman couldn’t be a part of the record-breaking streak on the diamond.

And that was the toughest part.

“Watching my boys from the bench everyday do work was hard,” he said. “I spent so much time on the field trying to excel and I felt like I had everything there for me to take.”

Still, the injured Sun Devil did not let the downtime go to waste.

“When I got here as a freshman, the older guys helped me along so much, so I wanted to pass that courtesy on,” he said. “All the young guys that sit on our bench were top dogs on their high school teams, so they aren’t used to not playing. I just tried to help encourage them and let them know their time would come.”

Even without setting foot onto the field, Workman’s impact was felt throughout the clubhouse.

An infectious personality coupled with a hard work ethic sent ripples throughout the entire team.

“He was awesome,” said ASU coach Tim Esmay, who was still the interim manager at the time. “He was with us every day at practice. Then during games, he was on the bench with charts trying to get times on pitchers. He was into it.”

Once the Sun Devils advanced to the CWS for the second consecutive year, they brought along the hobbled Workman for the ride.

“He was part of the team,” Esmay said. “What he provided helped us every day. He has the attitude you want around a ball club.”

Workman was honored in Omaha at the CWS opening ceremonies with the Elite 88 award for the 2010 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.

The award recognizes the athlete with the highest grade-point average at the final site for each of the NCAA’s 88 championships.

Workman’s was 3.9.

The road back

Workman thought he’d passed the low point in his journey once his walking boot was removed over the summer.

But more bad news soon followed.

“Only two of the bones healed so they had to take the other one out,” he said. “It was a grind being in that boot for so long and thinking I’d be good to go afterwards. I didn’t get to play summer ball because of it so I spent the summer in Arizona instead working on my rehab.

“It was a set back, not only on the field, but also in my life,” he said. “The emotions that came with it were tough.”

Come fall, however, Workman finally resumed baseball activities.

“I was definitely behind in at-bats,” he said. “I had to do some catching up because it had been a while since I had played in a game.”

By the time February rolled back around, Workman recovered.

Enough so that he participated in the annual alumni game a couple weeks before the start of the 2011 season.

That’s when he received his final setback.

After missing a year and a half, Workman injured his wrist in the meaningless exhibition game.

“That made me mad more than the other one just because I had made it back and was doing good,” he said. “It was pretty discouraging, I had to sit out the first series this year but I battled back through that one too.”

The return

Finally, after missing a full season, another chance to play at the CWS and the first few games of another season, Workman made his long-awaited return to the field Feb. 26 against Delaware.

“I was on the bench and coach called on me and asked if I wanted to hit,” he said. “I looked at him and said, ‘Uh, yeah!’”

So with “The Show Goes On” echoing across Packard Stadium, Workman took that seemingly short walk from the dugout to the batter’s box.

“I rushed to get ready and I go up there to hit and all of the sudden I hear the stands go crazy,” he said. “It got my heart going real fast. I ended up swinging first pitch but I’ll remember that experience for a long time.”

The same day, in the second game of a double-header, Workman went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“He is a great guy and a great teammate,” ASU senior outfielder Matt Newman said. “Everything he does in life, he seems to do well. He’s a good role model to check yourself at the door at. I respect him for what he went through and the person he is.”

Workman has gotten consistent playing time this season, playing in half of ASU’s games while batting .353.

On April 9 against Oregon State, he hit his first career home run.

“The injury was maybe the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with my whole life,” he said. “It was a grind but I’m working to seize the opportunities I have in front of me now.”

And he will. Because after all, the show goes on.

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