ASU baseball coaches take on new roles and navigate a new standard


The state of Arizona will enter the 2021-2022 varsity baseball season with a whole new coaching staff with no remnants of Tracy Smith’s seven-year regime. What he may lack in college experience he makes up for with enthusiasm, which is good as the learning curve is steep.

New head coach Willie Bloomquist spoke to the media Monday for the first time since completing his squad, which includes Sam Peraza (pitching coach and recruiting coordinator), Mike Goff (player development, coach outfield, infield coach), Bill Mueller (volunteer hitting coach) and Travis Buck (role to be defined).

Peraza is the only staff coach with experience at the college level after serving in the same position in San Diego State. Bloomquist has leaned heavily on him when it comes to recruiting and other aspects of the college game.

When asked what surprised him most so far in his new job, Bloomquist, the former Seattle Mariners’ all-rounder, had a simple answer.

“The time I spent on the phone,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a lot of work, the people I know and trust who have been here and done this are like, ‘You know you’re up against a giant. You get that, don’t’ is this not ?’ And I said yes and I was prepared for it, but not so much about the time I was going to spend on the phone and the connections you need to make. In a negative way. It’s been great, but it’s the thing. most surprising that I have had. “

ASU fielded one of the youngest teams in the country last year, so they will see most of their players return to the starting position. The exception there is shortstop Drew Swift, drafted in the eighth round by the Oakland A’s.

Bloomquist and Peraza have attended to their needs, with the most urgent coming to the mound. They have three comebacks that were lost early in the last campaign with late-season injuries, so their status for the start of 2022 could be on hold.

Additionally, there were a handful of others, either in the current squad or in the high school ranks who signed up for ASU, who were drafted and may choose to sign professionally rather than spend the season. next to Tempe.

“(The MLB Draft has) frankly gutted a few of the guys we’ve been waiting to come in and fill those starting roles,” Bloomquist said. “These are things that we had to sort out and are still reviewing.”

The current coaching staff looks a lot like the prototype of what ASU has established in other major sports, building on those who have played at the highest level. While they may not have coached much at the college level, they excelled there as players.

“With the experience that we have, not only at the college level, but with all of us coming through the college ranks as players and at the professional level and playing at the highest level, and coaching at the highest level, the young men who come here will get better and they will learn to play the game the right way, ”he said. “This is a big selling point for our program.”

During Smith’s tenure, ASU had a combined 202-155, finishing third in the Pac-12 twice, but only fifth in 2019 and 2021.

After regional appearances in the NCAA in 2015 and 2016, ASU experienced back-to-back losing seasons (23-32 in both years) for the first time. The Sun Devils rebounded to make a regional in 2019 and had a consensus team in the top 10 in 2020, but that season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sun Devils went 33-22 overall last season, which included a 16-14 mark in the Pac-12 game. ASU was the No. 2 seed in the region hosted by Texas, but was sent home after a 9-7 loss to Fairfield.

Much of that phone work that Bloomquist spoke about involved not only returning players, but incoming and potential rookies as well. His original plan was to retain Jason Kelly, who had been a pitching coach last year, but the parties went their separate ways and Kelly eventually landed the same job at LSU.

“We had a few obstacles here at the start with a lot of things addressed to me personally and to the program, but we have done our best to keep in touch with most, if not all of the players,” he said. declared. “We had some great conversations. Sam (Peraza) reached out to a lot of pitchers. I reached out to position the guys so the communication was really good. Keep in touch with them and make them knowing where they are. My ears are burning a bit from being on the phone. Nevertheless, this is the first part of this trip. “

Bloomquist said he expects big things right out of the box.

“We are not coming here to try to finish second,” he said. “We’re here to try to put the pieces in place right now to be really good this year and to compete at the top level. I’m not handling loss very well. I’m trying to get the guys involved right now who are going. help us win. “

Bloomquist added that an addition yet to be decided will be a fitness trainer.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.

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