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ASU Baseball: A midweek practice with a major guest

(Photo: Associated Press)

Current Los Angeles Dodgers’ broadcaster and former Arizona State outfielder Rick Monday visited Phoenix Muni and the ASU baseball program Tuesday afternoon.

“You guys are lucky, the fences were deeper when we played here. 430 in center and 360 down the lines,” Monday joked while speaking to the Sun Devil team at practice.

Monday came to see head coach Tracy Smith and his ball club before he leaves the Valley of the Sun as spring training ends. There was even a point in practice where the skipper stopped the drill the team was performing, called the entire squad in to take a seat up the first base line and listen to Monday’s stories.

With his number 27 resting on the wall of honor behind him, Monday reminded the Sun Devils that they “are privileged to be at Arizona State University.” Monday only spent one season with ASU back in 1965, when he was the National Player of the Year by The Sporting News, defeated Ohio State to win a national championship and was the first player ever selected in the MLB Draft by the Kansas City A’s (now Oakland).

“It was my first opportunity to meet Rick today and spend a considerable amount of time with him,” Smith said.

New uniforms were teased on Monday and revealed on Tuesday to honor the 40th anniversary of “the greatest play on a baseball field” made by Rick Monday.

On April 25, 1976, two protesters ran onto the field at Dodger Stadium to attempt to burn the American Flag. Monday was playing left field at the time for the Chicago Cubs and raced over and snatched the flag before the protesters had the chance to ignite it.

“To get the backstory on that particular event that we’re honoring is truly special,” Smith said. “I don’t think anybody at the time knew the impact that would have on American culture.”

The latest jerseys feature maroon pinstripes, block “ASU” letters diagonally on the left chest and a special patch on the right sleeve to commemorate the flag-saving play. The Sun Devils do not play on April 25 this season as it falls on a Monday, but they play the next night at home against rival University of Arizona.

Monday concluded his talk with the 2016 ASU team, 51 versions later of his 1965 team, with simple advice for their goals moving forward: “Reach out at it, grab it, embrace it, and have at it. Good luck.”

Practice notes

  • The Sun Devils’ defensive alignment to open drills included Tyler Williams in left, Andrew Shaps in center and Gage Canning in right. The infield was Jordan Aboites at third, Colby Woodmansee at short, Andrew Snow at second, David Greer at first and Brian Serven behind the plate.
  • During the “two-ball drill” ASU brought its remaining bench players to bat. The first ball in play was let go by the defense, then the second ball was played live. The drill always began with one out and often had runners on base.
  • The defense turned several conventional ground ball double plays, a feat in which the Sun Devils are last in the Pac-12 (7).
  • Tracy Smith has two-thirds of his weekend rotation set with Seth Martinez on Thursday and Ryan Hingst on Friday. Saturday’s starter at Washington State is still undecided.

You can follow the writer on Twitter, @Dom_Cotroneo

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Dominic Cotroneo

Dominic Cotroneo has served as a broadcaster for ASU Hockey and ASU Baseball for each of the last three years. You can follow him on Twitter @Dom_Cotroneo

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