The ASU baseball team's 2024 signing class was one to remember, thanks to the inclusion of famed Sun Devil alumni and a heartwarming signing of a 10-year-old superfan.
ASU head coach Willie Bloomquist's 2024 class consists of eight pitchers, three infielders, three outfielders and two catchers. He primarily addressed a lack of pitching depth after losing crucial inning-eaters such as Khristian Curtis and Timmy Manning, both of whom are now in MLB farm systems.
"We wanted to focus pitching heavy on this class," Bloomquist said. "I think it's on paper. It's pretty good. So we're excited to get these guys here and I think we have 17 signees and then a couple more that are on their way."
The Sun Devils brought in a class of a similar size this year with 18 freshmen. Undoubtedly, some of that class and Bloomquist’s 2024 crew will need to make an immediate impact on a team that only retained 14 of 38 players from last season.
The team announced its 2024 class on social media, with former Sun Devils welcoming the signees to the family. The signing frenzy kicked off on November 8 when former Sun Devil Andrew Beinbrink welcomed Beckett Zavorek, the No. 12 ranked shortstop from California.
Who better to announce a new ASU arm than Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly? The World Series starter welcomed pitcher Jake Neely, the No. 15 ranked player from Texas, and the No. 4 ranked right-handed pitcher from the Lone Star State.
Right-handed pitcher Chase Wagner is another new fiery arm up Bloomquist's sleeve. The Scottsdale native is the 11th-best player in Arizona. Wagner is already throwing heat in the mid-90s and shows promise to become one of ASU's trusted arms eventually.
Bloomquist's best new glove in the field is outfielder Ky McGary, the No. 4 player from Arizona. The Phoenix native can play any position but will primarily patrol the outfield with his speed and strong arm. McGary can also punish teams with his bat thanks to his 94 outfield exit velocity, which falls in the 98th percentile for his position.
The lengthy list of famed Sun Devils to make appearances included 10-year MLB veteran Jason Kipnis, nine-year veteran Kole Calhoun, 2020 first-overall pick Spencer Torkleson and "Mr. Mariner" Alvin Davis.
Two-time World Series Champion and American League MVP Dustin Pedroia even got in on the action to announce catcher Nicholas Montgomery. He's by far Bloomquist’s most significant pickup, ranked as the No. 24 overall recruit and second-best catcher in the nation by Prep Baseball Report.
Montgomery is set to fill the big shoes of junior catcher Ryan Campos when he's finally drafted. Yet Bloomquist also has to worry about his future catcher getting snagged by an MLB team before he even touches down in Tempe.
"We hope to get him on campus because he's that good, to where we got to keep them out of the jaws of pro ball," Bloomquist said. "I think he's got a chance to be pretty special."
An ASU alum himself, Bloomquist wanted to get former Sun Devils involved to build excitement around his program and the incoming class. He had a long list of alumni to choose from as ASU boasts 473 all-time MLB Draft picks, by far the most of any college.
"I kind of want to remind people that we have some firepower with our alumni," Bloomquist said. "Not only that part of it, but to have them embrace continuing to be part of the program. They are what this thing is about and for them to introduce the new generation or the next generation of Sun Devils coming in, I thought that was important."
Bloomquist also took advantage of the signing period to announce a surprise signee and make a kid's day. ASU signed 10-year-old Thaddeus Earle to a National Letter of Intent at a press conference on Monday. Earle has neurofibromatosis, a combination of three conditions that lead to the development of tumors that can affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
Earle was previously adopted by the baseball team through Team Impact, an organization that matches children facing serious illness with college sports teams. Earle was immediately embraced with open arms by the Sun Devils, who look forward to having him around Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"We have a great time whenever Thad is around," redshirt sophomore pitcher Tyler Meyer said. "When we have the privilege of having him at the field or whether it's going to his school or bringing him around to Municipal. We're honored to have him as a teammate officially now."
Bloomquist gave Earle his own ASU baseball jersey and welcomed him to the team. Bloomquist described his youngest recruit as a six-tool player who he thinks can play at any position and help bring home some hardware. Earle then fielded questions about his decision to play at ASU and one of his favorite memories with the Sun Devils.
"A long time ago someone was in this place and someone told me to splash a cup of water on Tobias," Earle said. "Right there, I got him."
The team looks forward to making more memories with Earle in the upcoming season. Several players stood off to Earle’s side as he spoke to the media and watched him become a Sun Devil for life.
His positive energy in the press conference is just a small sample of his enormous impact on the ASU baseball team.
"They get to see what he goes through on a daily basis and how he attacks each day with enthusiasm," Bloomquist said. "He comes out successful on an everyday grind. He's the epitome of what it means to take challenges head-on."
Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.