Monday, December 21, 2009

The Devil in Josh Spence - Part 2

The Deep in the Hole inbox exploded with readers furious that the Defensive Specialist carved up ‘The Devil in Josh Spence’ into two parts. The Defensive Specialist humbly apologizes and now offers the second instalment:

Can you describe game day during the season?
Game days are awesome; especially when you’re a starting pitcher ‘cause you can do just about anything you want ha-ha. On a day I'm not pitching I’ll generally show up to the ball park a good 4 hours before the game (with everyone else), some players will be there even earlier taking some extra swings before the game. In the clubhouse there’ll generally be a buffet of sandwiches for before the game so when we show up we’ll eat and get changed. After that we’ll warm up as a team then it’s off to Batting practice, which for me is standing in the outfield for the next hour or so “shagging” balls. After this it’s time for the other team to hit so we just resume back into the clubhouse and hitters will be running around getting more swings in, in the cage but for a pitcher we’ll just chill and watch TV or play some cards, it’s real laid back but for some they want to watch game footage of the other team, it’s really whatever you want to do. About 20 minutes before the game all us Sun Devils run out onto the field and do our renowned “Circle of Enthusiasm” before the game which is something I can’t explain, you need to come out and see it for yourself! The last words we hear before going onto the field to play are “all day long, all day strong” and that’s what we do.

How many games do you play?
We play a 56 game schedule, being in such nice weather all year round we have the luxury of playing around 40 home games which is awesome because traveling can really take a toll when you’re playing on a national scale, plus at home we get around 3,500 people at each game which is a big home field advantage. In fact last year we went 36-4 at home, which is pretty incredible. Every game we play is a night game and just has the best atmosphere. But as I said it can be a tough schedule when juggling classes as you play 8 games every two weeks with no doubleheaders, they can be long days being at the field from 2-10 but it’s all worth it.

How does your program travel?
There’s only one way we travel and that’s by plane, you’ll show up to the field on a Thursday morning for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday away series and pack your bags. Then someone will pick up your bags and take them to the airport for you and check them. All we have to worry about is getting on the team bus to the airport and going through security. Once we touchdown wherever we may be it’s off to grab lunch then we’ll check into our hotel and head to the field to get accustomed to it before the big three game series. After the game Sunday it’s back on the plane and back home. ASU tradition however when travelling to USC or UCLA is to take a bus on which we go through a few “hazing” rituals on the 8 hours to get to California, it’s pretty cool knowing you’re doing the same things as guys like Pedroia, Bloomquist and even the older Alumni, it’s awesome feeling the tradition.

What kind of gear and equipment are you issued with at ASU?
We’re given Nike apparel, Wilson gloves and Demarini Bats. It’s like Christmas when you walk up to your locker day one and you think to yourself that you’re in college ha-ha. Were treated real well and if you need something it generally gets done, if you want a type of cleat or glove or need new undershirts or hats you’ll get what you need. It makes you feel pretty special.

Who's the toughest opponent you’ve faced?
To be honest I can’t help feeling we were the best team in 2009 but the toughest games we had were against Arkansas at Arkansas when in the polls they were ranked number 1 and we were number 2. Generally with non-conference games there’s not much of a crowd because in reality all it affects is your ranking which is important but not as important as winning your conference, so generally it’s a good time to rest some pitchers you’ll need for conference play or some players that need a day off, but when we travelled to Arkansas who have an awesome ball park, we drew a little over 11,000 people both nights we were there. There were “tailgaters” in left field (people who show up early and just drink all afternoon) heckling the hell out of us, we had cheerleaders on top of the dugout and it was a real hostile crowd. I was under the stadium in the locker room when they scored once and I felt like everything was about to collapse on me it was that loaded and crazy outside, everything was shaking! If you can picture an American Football crowd at a baseball game, it was like that. I think that’s one of the greatest things about college sports in general is the passion of the people who show up, not only is it their hometown but it’s their school and there’s a lot of emotions associated with that which I think is really cool.

Goals for the 2010 season?
Win a national championship. I think its cool being in a program where if you don’t get into the final 8 (go to Omaha for the college world series) then it’s a failed season and if you go, then you better win it all. I like having that expectation on our shoulders and that’s why we all came here. I can honestly say that I don’t think there’s a school out there that talks about winning the title more than we do.

You were drafted in the 3rd round by the Anaheim Angels in 2009 but chose to return to ASU. Can you outline your decision making process?
Simply it was this. I was given “X” amount of dollars to sign professionally and I just felt pitching Friday nights in the PAC10, captaining my dream baseball team to a national championship and finishing my degree was more life changing than that dollar amount. Was it a great opportunity given by the Angels to me, yes, but my heart lies with ASU and you live once. I want to accomplish many things not only in my baseball career but off the field and in the classroom. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and the truth is I know I'm good enough, I know I'm both physically and mentally ready for the next level but all I'm worried about is being the best I can be as a Sun Devil and we’ll worry about that next step when it comes around.

Is there anything about college baseball that Australians just don’t know or understand?
No but if there’s any questions that anyone would like to ask me I’d be more than happy to answer them.

So there you have it folks!

The Defensive Specialist would like to thank Josh for devoting his time and effort in presenting a nice snapshot of his college baseball career. Hopefully Josh can provide some more insight once his season commences. If you any questions for Josh, by all means send them to and the Defensive Specialist will act as the cut off man and make the perfect relay.

Alright, as we head into Christmas the Defensive Specialist needs to remind the loyal readers to cast their vote in the “Australia’s best Major Leaguer” poll which closes on Tuesday night. The Defensive Specialist will endeavor to provide his thoughts on the topic before the big day on Friday

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Devil in Josh Spence

It’s almost Christmas and the Defensive Specialist always delivers at this time of the year. As a special treat, the Defensive Specialist cued up the Deep in the Hole video conferencing equipment and sat down to talk turkey with arguably Australia’s most successful college baseball player – Josh Spence.

Spence put up insane numbers while playing at Central Arizona College (Junior College), becoming a two-time winner of the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference player of the year as well as a two-time All American. He went 27-7, with 9 saves and a 1.40 ERA while striking out 327 hitters.

Central Arizona:


These successes led to Spence being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 25th round of the 2008 draft. Instead of joining the ranks of professional baseball, he chose to play for Arizona State University, where as a junior he earned Third Team All American honours. Spence posted a 10-1 record with 1 save and a 2.37 ERA while punching out 125 batters. He was named National Newcomer of the Year by

Arizona State:


Following the 2009 season Spence was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 3rd round of the Major League draft. He chose to turn down the Angels to return to ASU.

Here’s Josh’s bio at Arizona State:

Alright, enough of the build up, lets get into it……

  •  Josh, Can you provide some background to your baseball career?

I grew up playing for the Geelong Baycats and Guild Lions who were both quality baseball clubs and the perfect stepping stones to enable me to be both a consistent baseballer and a model citizen. I was very fortunate to represent my state and country at all different levels throughout my junior years, taking me not only all over Australia but also all over the world. I spent two years at Central Arizona Junior College where my eyes were opened to how big baseball really is in America and how valuable it is to have a “plan B” in this game. After experiencing great success in a real team orientated environment, not to mention being lucky enough to receive some individual accolades, I was drafted in the 25th round to the Diamondbacks but had to respectfully decline as playing baseball at the Division 1 level at such a powerhouse university was something I had to do, that powerhouse university being the Arizona State Sun Devils. After achieving something never been done before in my conference (the PAC10) I was part of the team that won 3 consecutive PAC10 titles competing against teams like UCLA, USC, Stanford and Oregon State. Once getting a bid to be one of 60 teams to make the playoffs this is where the fun really started thus began the “road to Omaha”. After beating teams like Oral Roberts and Cal Poly we then became one of 16 teams left in bracket play and hosted Clemson with the winner going to the CWS (College World Series). We clinched in two and made it to Omaha where we ended up placing third. Once the summer came around I had another tough decision to make as I was drafted in the 3rd round (110th pick overall) to the Angels. My ultimate goal is to play in the big leagues but having the chance to compete in Omaha yet again with the Devils, and finishing off my degree in Sociology and Education, was more life changing to me then starting my professional career so I decided to come back to school. It’s a decision I don’t regret one bit and I have enjoyed every minute of coming back to school, I'm on track to graduate in May 2010 and been named co-captain of the Sun Devils which are both achievements I'm very proud of. Right now I'm just getting ready to win it all.

  •  How did you end up in Junior College in Arizona?

This is a question I get asked a lot. My story is very lucky but as my coach here at ASU says, “everything happens for a reason”. I attended a baseball camp here in Tempe, Arizona after I graduated high school, a pitcher/ catcher camp to be precise, and as I was pitching in the camp there was a coach from Central Arizona JC in the stands watching (as he is Alumni at ASU and decided to see what was going on). After he saw me pitch and heard ASU weren’t going to offer me anything because they felt going to JC (junior college) route was in my best interests, he easily persuaded me to sign with Central Arizona and that’s how it all began.

  •  You had great success individually while playing junior college baseball, what key differences stood out for you between Australia and the US?

I think the biggest difference was work ethic; baseball is an everyday sport and those kids worked at it every day. I think a big misconception here in Australia is that college is the route you take when you haven’t received an opportunity professionally, that’s not the case, American kids want to go to college not only for the college experience but to ultimately get better at baseball. But when you’re offered 7 figured contracts out of high school that’s something you can’t turn down. What I'm trying to say is that the players in college work hard and they have fun doing it, it frustrates me when good Australian baseballers come to college and they throw away the opportunity because they’re too busy participating in the college experience so to say. It’s hard but it’s fun and most definitely worthwhile.

  • You now play for a national powerhouse – Arizona State University. What other schools recruited you and why did you decide to attend ASU?

The truth is I didn’t really give anyone else an opportunity to recruit me, being in ASU’s backyard. I was able to see the program from the outside looking in and from what I saw, I wanted to be a Sun Devil more than anything. The passion and relentlessness with which the players played sold me and when ASU offered me an opportunity to play it didn’t take me to long to say yes and sign my letter of intent there.

  •  Can you describe campus life at a nationally regarded university?

Arizona State has the second highest student population (behind Ohio State) in the country, with 60,000+ students its crazy. I can’t begin to describe how much fun it is going to big football games and standing in the student section or rushing the court with a big basketball win, not to mention the parties. It’s all fun but my purpose here is to win a national championship for the Sun Devils and that’s the great thing about our ball club - that we don’t get sidetracked from what our goal is and we all know why we came here. If you get caught up in “all that” it’s bad news and it can consume your precious time here as a student-athlete. I'm having a great time here at ASU but I would rather look back and say I wish I partied more than looking back and regretting not working hard enough.

  •  How do you find the academic component of being a student athlete and what are you studying?

I'm just going to be honest and say that you have to try to fail a class. It’s really that simple and especially if you’re a student-athlete.
We have our own study hall where no one else is allowed in unless you play sport at the school, if you need a tutor you just ask your advisor and they’ll be one waiting for you in the next 30 minutes in any class you need. There’s essentially all the help you need, and even though we have early mornings and long days it’s really inexcusable to not pass your classes. I've been taking 5-6 classes every semester since I've been over here which is a big work load but I feel at the same time that the busier I am the better I do (and ultimately the less trouble I'm in). I'm studying sociology and education.

  •  What are fall workouts like at a Division 1 baseball program?

They’re tough but purposeful. I think back home you hear stories about college sports and how crazy the workouts can be. I think being at such a nationally regarded university and having an incredible list of Alumni (guys like Pedroia, Ethier, Buck, Lo Duca, Bonds I mean the list goes on) we get quality strength and conditioning training. Being a pitcher you would think I do a lot of running, which is true but not long distance. Pitching is such an explosive activity that I don’t want to slow my body down by conditioning it the wrong way by doing long distance running, a lot of my running has to do with agility type work as well as in the gym. Each program is individually made for each player and for me being where I'm at, I don’t need to put on weight, I need to be healthy to throw 100+ innings a year and 200+ when I'm playing professional baseball so you’re never going see me doing heavy lifts but purposeful training with explosiveness.

  •  What sort of conditioning and lifting do you under take?

As I said a lot of my training has to do with not only explosiveness but also conditioning the muscles for longevity. We have a great pitching coach at ASU in fact I've had two great pitching coaches here at ASU so far, the first was Josh Holliday who is Matt Holliday’s brother and gave great insight on the mental side of baseball. This year we have Ken Knutson who is “famous” for coaching pitching superstar Tim Lincecum and comes with great knowledge of pitching and how to prepare for each outing. Ken has us doing a lot of bands, which are called “body shaping” drills, and throwing with heavy balls. All the exercises we do not only condition our arms and shoulders but implement our core thus creating velocity behind what we throw. For someone like me, Velocity isn’t what my main objective would be but these exercises are great in my case for “flushing” the body of lactic acid after a start or in the right dosage, getting loose to play catch.

Tune in Monday for Part 2

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Four Play

Okay party people, just a quick one today as the Defensive Specialist sets up the final poll that will allow the loyal readers to vote on who they believe is Australia’s best Major Leaguer. Before we get started, the above picture was the only non-pornographic photo that the Defensive Specialist could find to correspond with the title - we're trying to run a  family friendly organisation here! (mind you if you look them up and listen to your music your auditory senses may be offended) Anyway, voting numbers have been ridiculously high and the Deep in the Hole hotline has been running hot as campaign teams for a number of players have been calling in asking for extensions as they try to sway voters and jack their guy’s numbers up. Fortunately for democracy, the Defensive Specialist runs a fair and equitable program and all deadlines were adhered to.

As you can probably tell from the Defensive Specialist’s writing, he is a man of no ego. A selfless individual here purely to serve the game. And it is with this in mind that the Defensive Specialist asks for forgiveness and offers a heartfelt apology. It isn’t often that the Defensive Specialist makes a mental error but this one could not be overlooked. Your old pal, the Defensive Specialist forgot an Aussie Major Leaguer – Phil Stockman.

Apologies Phil.

Phil Stockman

Stockman signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1997. He was granted free agency in 2005 and signed with the Atlanta Braves. He made his major league debut in 2006 at 26, appearing in 4 games and pitching 4 innings. He posted a 2.25 ERA and punched out 4. IN 2008 Stockman appeared in 6 games, working 7.1 innings, striking out 9 and yielding no runs.

Injuries derailed his career and he was releases by Atlanta in 2009.

The Defensive Specialist is making an executive decision that Phil wouldn’t have made the finals.

Anyway we’re down to the final four:

Pool A

Ryan Rowland-Smith

Pool B

Graeme Lloyd

Pool C

David Nilsson

Pool D

Peter Moylan

And just because there are more goofy pictures of Moylan online than anyone else:

Make sure you cast your vote ASAP, as the poll will only be up for one week. Please keep write-in votes to a minimum and if Phil Stockman’s legal team is reading, please send all correspondence directly to the Deep in the Hole Group General Counsel.

While the results are flooding in, the Defensive Specialist will be working on his take on Australia’s best big leaguer as well as preparing his Christmas treat for all the loyal readers. If you have any topics or ideas that you’d like baseball’s biggest brain to cover, fire them into