Benefield: Casa Grande High's Spencer Torkelson adding basketball to sports resume

Not satisfied with dominance on the football field and baseball diamond, senior Spencer Torkelson is headed for the basketball court.|

Not satisfied with dominance on the football field and baseball diamond, Spencer Torkelson is going to try his hand at basketball in 2016.

The attempt to give it a go on the hardwood for the Casa Grande Gauchos in his senior year is less a vanity project than the effort of a kid to squeeze as much out of high school as he possibly can.

“It’s high school and you only get four years of it. It’s not like I’m going to be a college basketball player,” he said. “He knows baseball is my number one so I’m always going to come back to him.”

“He” is Casa Grande baseball coach Paul Maytorena, a guy who has had Torkelson’s talents at his disposal for the past three years.

Torkelson, who has earned All-Empire honors in both football in baseball, definitely plays favorites when it comes to his sports.

Torkelson has committed to Arizona State University for the fall of 2017 to play baseball.

“I want to be a big-leaguer. It’s my dream since I can remember picking up a baseball and a bat,” he said. “I work hard every day to become one, and hopefully it pays off one day.”

It’s already paying off.

Torkelson, who will be a senior when school starts in August, was named last week to the Cal-Hi Sports all-state baseball team.

“There are a lot of names on that list I recognize,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for those guys … it was an honor to be named to it.”?Another dream, before becoming a big leaguer? Torkelson wants to walk away from his high school career a North Coast Section champ.

“I just want to go out with a bang, have a great year, have a lot of fun, hopefully win NCS - bring it back to Casa Grande,” he said.

Torkelson recalled watching the NCS championship game as an eighth-grader, when Casa had superstars Anthony Bender and Francis Christy. Those Gauchos lost, and Torkelson hasn’t forgotten it.

“Ever since then, I’ve wanted to win an NCS championship,” he said.

Behind Torkelson, Casa Grande may have the goods to do it.

Torkelson has started for the perennially tough Gauchos since his freshman season. A third baseman, he hit .442 last season with a team-leading 25 RBIs for a squad that 21-6 overall and 10-4 in the North Bay League. Casa was ranked No. 1 in the NCS playoffs last spring but lost to Northgate High in the semifinals.

The push for Casa is to “trust the process,” he said.

“To me it means practice hard, play how you practice, don’t take it for granted,” he said.

Maybe that’s why Torkelson is keen to be a three-sport guy this year.

Among guys, many of whom have been playing together since they were 8, Maytorena said Torkelson is an undeniable leader.

“Everyone, they want to work with him, they want to be next to him,” he said.

“He will just do his thing and people will follow along because they see what his results are,” he said. “So they are working out more and eating better. He’s not really ‘Rah, rah look at me.’”

Torkelson likely doesn’t have time to be rah rah.

Balancing ambitions in three sports means balancing the needs of three off season workout programs.

“My summer is pretty packed,” he said.

He’s got travel baseball taking him across the country. He has summer league basketball, passing league for football, plus all of the workouts associated with all three sports.

When asked if maybe he’s taking on too much, or risking his ticket to a Division I baseball program, Torkelson said competing is not something he can walk away from.

“It’s too much fun on a Friday night not to play,” he said. “If you try to be the hammer and not the nail, you will definitely get out of there without any injuries.”

Maytorena has faith that Torkelson’s work ethic will keep him injury free.

“Run hard, don’t take it ?easy - that’s when you get hurt,” he said.

Going slow is not a risk with Torkelson.

“He’s been a joy,” Maytorena said. “If he wasn’t our best player, if he was middle of the pack, he’d still be one of my favorites. He’s the hardest worker and he falls in love with the process. When practice is over, he’s working out. He’s really putting in the extra work when other people are doing other things.”

This upcoming school year, Torkelson will likely be very busy with “other things,” but they are things he’s sure will make him a better baseball player in the end.

“I think it makes you more athletic” to play multiple sports, he said. “If you play one sport your whole life and use the same muscles over and over again, they are going to get overused, tired easier, injured easier.”

Torkelson may be trying to squeeze in as much as he can in his final year in green and gold, but his focus is undeniably on next spring.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

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