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Spencer Torkelson’s college career ends, but baseball career just starting

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Spencer Torkelson’s college baseball career is most likely over. It didn’t end in the College World Series as he had planned, but confined to his Petaluma family home, locked in by the coronavirus pandemic.

Torkelson is a junior at Arizona State University, where the Sun Devils had put together a 13-4 record and were looking forward to battling for a spot in the College World Series. “We were pretty set up for a special year,” Torkelson said.

He also was looking forward to a special year, individually. The honors list for the Casa Grande High School graduate goes on and on for his first two years at ASU, and includes All-American honors from almost every nationally recognized source. In his two seasons (plus 17 games this year), he batted .337 with 152 runs scored in 129 games, 168 hits, 54 home runs, 130 RBIs, a .729 slugging percentage, 110 walks and a .463 slugging percentage. He was within two home runs of passing Bob Horner as the leading home run hitter in ASU history. His list of All-American, All-This and All-That honors could fill a scorebook.

Now, his season and probably his college career are over. But not his baseball career.

He is ranked the No. 1 prospect in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft by Baseball America and the No. 2 pick by D1Baseball.com. He was the projected No. 1 pick in many early-season mock drafts and among the top three in almost all mock drafts.

But Torkelson may have to wait a bit to find out about his MLB fate. The draft is scheduled to begin Wednesday, June 10, but may be pushed back until July due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s draft will have only 5-10 rounds, a change that shouldn’t affect Torkelson.

What does affect him is being shut in his parents’ home with no baseball to play. “It feels weird,” he said. “It is strange to think I may be done with college baseball.”

Torkelson acknowledged that, for all his success, the move from high school to Division I baseball was challenging. “It is one of the biggest jumps you can make,” he said. “It is a big adjustment to go from being one of the best players in the county to playing with the best players in the country.

“At first I was a little timid, going against 21- and 22-year-olds and trying to take a job away. I just had to rely on my athletic talent and a strong work ethic.”

He also relied on a good baseball background drilled into him by his Little League coaches — his father, Rick, and uncle Mike Enochs, and Paul Maytorena and his other coaches at Casa Grande High School.

Even friends and coaches who had watched Torkelson grow up as a Little League and high school star didn’t expect what happened at ASU, when he broke Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record. Torkelson didn’t expect that, either.

“I always had some decent power, but it didn’t translate consistently until my freshman year,” he said. “I worked out all fall and worked with batting coaches every day. It just all clicked for me.”

But even for someone who has things click into place as well as they have for Torkelson, baseball is still a challenging game. He explained that it is a game of adjustments. “You have to keep adjusting to the pitchers,” he said. “They are always making adjustments based off what you’re doing, and you have to adjust to them.”

It is not only his individual success that has made ASU baseball a unique experience for Torkelson, who has also played for Team USA and in the prestigious Cape Cod League for college players.

“College baseball is really special,” he explained. “You develop relationships with your teammates. You have 34 best friends. Teamwork and relationships are what it is all about.”

Which is why it hurts so much for Torkelson and his Sun Devils teammates to know they had the talent to reach the College World Series, the ultimate for all college baseball players.

“You just have to look at the bigger picture,” Torkelson said of the abrupt end to that dream. “You can’t be mad or upset. You just have to accept things the way they are.”

Torkelson was a well-known football and baseball player at Casa Grande High School — the acknowledged best player in both sports — but his prep attention pales in comparison to the national attention he has garnered from the time he went on his home run spree as a freshman at ASU and will continue right through the pro draft.

Baseball or not, he still has some unfinished business at ASU. He still needs a couple of classes to complete his graduation requirements for a degree in liberal arts.

For now, the possible No. 1 Major League Baseball draft pick is staying in his Petaluma home with the people who have always supported and coached him on the baseball diamond and in life — his father, his mother, Lori, and his brother, Matthew.

He said he doesn’t let the attention or the prospect of a Major League Baseball career faze him. “I think I was raised to stay calm and collected,” he said. “I don’t let things go to my head. I’ll never become someone I’m not. I’m still the same person.”

He does admit to sometimes pondering what has happened to bring him to this point in his life.

“My mom and I have talked about it,” he said. “It is the weirdest feeling. I sometimes think, ‘Is this really happening to me?’”

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