Technically, the ASU baseball team won’t be at home this Thursday through Sunday when it travels to Surprise for the 10th consecutive season of the Coca-Cola Classic.
But with the frequency in which the No. 11 Sun Devils (5-1) visit Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, it’s more like the squad is spending the weekend at its grandparent’s house.
“The city of Surprise takes good care of us every year,” ASU coach Tim Esmay said. “It’s a home game, but it’s really not. It’s a different venue, and it teaches the young guys what it’s like to be on the road. We love going there for those reasons.”
ASU will take on Saint Louis (5-3) on Thursday, Northern Illinois (0-7) on Friday, Winthrop (0-8) on Saturday and St. Mary’s (5-3) on Sunday. All games are scheduled to start at 4 p.m., but there must be a 45-minute gap in between the spring training games at 1 p.m.
The Coca-Cola Classic isn’t a tournament. Instead, it’s more like a round-robin invitational. Even though the format lets the coaches know who their teams will be playing ahead of time, it’s still a challenge to get ready for four different opponents in four days.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself, but you have to be prepared in the back of your mind for all four teams,” junior catcher Max Rossiter said. “You take it one game at a time, and then when the game is over, you go onto the next one. (You’ve) got to have a short memory.”
One team the Sun Devils won’t meet is conference foe Oregon State. The Beavers will be in Surprise and participate in the classic, but the two teams weren’t paired up against each other.
“I’d rather just keep them in the conference,” Esmay said. “You play different in these games, and then by the time you see them again, they look like a completely different team.”
With last Sunday’s victory over UC Riverside, Esmay notched his 100th career victory as the coach of the Sun Devils.
He took over for former coach Pat Murphy to begin the 2009 season.
“It’s a byproduct of great coaches and great players,” Esmay said. “It’s what we do day in and day out. Obviously I’m ecstatic about it, though.”
Rodgers catching eyes
Through two starts so far in 2012, ASU junior right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers has thrown 13 innings without allowing a run and has struck out 17.
Last Friday night, two big names came to Packard Stadium to watch the Sun Devils’ ace pitch. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke and front office assistant Craig Counsell scouted Rodgers in his start against UC Riverside.
The Brewers drafted him out of high school in the 39th round, but were unable to sign him.
“He spots up, he has four great pitches and he locates all of them,” Rossiter said. “He’s the best pitcher I’ve caught by far.”
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