Every time ASU infielder Luke Keaschall goes up to bat, the famous tune from the critically acclaimed "Rocky" movies "Gonna Fly Now" plays over the speakers.
Keaschall takes inspiration from Rocky Balboa. He was the ultimate underdog, someone who never quit, pushed himself against all odds and went further than anyone could ever imagine.
"The Rocky movies are my favorite of all time," Keaschall said. "Ever since I was younger, I used to watch those movies all the time. I always liked the boxing community, those guys are tough as nails, and I love the competitive aspect."
Whether on the diamond, in the dugout or in the locker room, Keaschall brings his competitiveness and drive everywhere he goes. It's one of the reasons he's become an everyday player for the No. 24 nationally-ranked ASU baseball squad after transferring from San Francisco in the offseason.
Keaschall has been a premier factor in ASU's success this season. He's tied for the most home runs on the team with seven, second on the team in RBIs with 31, and he does all that while slashing a .346 batting average as the cherry on top.
He's played all over the infield, batted leadoff, and was cast as fourth hitter by ASU baseball head coach Willie Bloomquist. It seems no matter where you put Keaschall, he will succeed.
"He's been outstanding. We all knew it was coming," Bloomquist said. "You can't contain him for too long. You keep him off-balance for a little bit, but he's going to figure it out. He works too hard, he cares too much and he's too good of an athlete to not figure it out."
Keaschall was named to the Preseason All-American third team by Collegiate Baseball News before the season started. He ranks 65th in the top 100 MLB draft prospects leaderboard.
In his two seasons at USF, he was the everyday shortstop and one of the best players on the squad. Through his tenure, Keaschall batted .312 with 64 RBIs. He won the WCC's Freshman of the Year award in a season where he hit .320 with four home runs, four triples and 30 RBIs.
With all the success Keaschall has had in college, one would think he was an excellent talent coming out of high school, but this was not the case. The now ASU standout had to first stay local, as USF was the only Division 1 school that wanted him.
Keaschall hails from Watsonville, California, about two hours south of San Francisco. He attended Aptos High School, where he was a multi-sport athlete of baseball and wrestling.
"I'm happy I wrestled," Keaschall said. "My dad wrestled in high school and only had good things to say about it, so it made me want to do it and have only good things to say about it."
Despite this, Keaschall chose to play D1 baseball, enrolling in USF for the 2021 season, despite offers from other local schools. Fast forward two seasons, he enters the transfer portal, and immediately Bloomquist is on the other line.
"Once I hit the portal, I already had a connection with Bloomquist because he was a player for my former coach," Keaschall said. "The biggest thing was how competitive Bloomquist is. I liked everything about him, what he was growing here, and I wanted to go somewhere where we're going to win, and ASU is the perfect place to be."
Now two months into the ASU season, Keaschall has done more than enough to prove his worth with the statistics and accolades he's collected, but that's not what makes Keaschall stand out. To his teammates, what separates him is one phrase: Work ethic.
"He's the hardest working guy I know," said freshman outfielder Isaiah Jackson. "He works his butt off all the time, coming in here at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. Just getting work done all the time. So obviously, he's going to be performing on the field."
Sophomore catcher Ryan Campos said Keaschall is one of the guys in ASU's lineup who works his tail off, which builds trust. He is also happy to see Keaschall come into his own in Tempe.
The work ethic comes from many different sources. It even goes back to some of the things Keaschall learned watching the Rocky movies. But the primary source comes from the motivation of just wanting to keep playing his lifelong favorite sport, baseball.
"There's nothing I want to do with my life besides play baseball," Keaschall said. "I want to play for as long as I can. I want them to rip the jersey off of me when I'm 60 years old. I want to play baseball for the rest of my life. That's where the motivation to be great comes from."
This week ASU baseball took down GCU 13-10 away and heads to Seattle for a weekend series against Washington.
Edited by Walker Smith, Reagan Priest and Piper Hansen.
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Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.