TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- The Arizona State baseball team expected big things for 2020. A group of Sun Devils that would be remembered for years to come. But after the NCAA was forced to shut down spring sports in mid-March due to coronavirus concerns, this ASU team won't even have the standard group photo together.
"It dawned on me the other day," recalls Arizona State baseball coach Tracy Smith. "I said, 'we didn't even take a team picture.' Like, the greatest team I've ever had, and we didn't even take a team picture."
It was a season Smith had been building up to. Now in his sixth year at ASU, he had the Sun Devils ranked 9th in the country after a 13-4 start.
"That team was not only good," says Smith, "it was also a really, really good group of guys in that locker room."
There were only two seniors on this squad (who could potentially still return to Tempe, after an NCAA ruling Monday that spring sports student-athletes may be granted an additional season of eligibility), but a whole bunch of draft-eligible juniors. It's believed at least 4-5 of those juniors would leave, including likely number one overall pick Spencer Torkelson. The junior first baseman was so feared at the plate, he led the country in walks, and was only three home runs away from breaking the program's all-time record.
"That's one game for him," says Smith. "So, when you think about the context of that, in terms of shattering that home run record, with all the great names that have been here, I know that would've been something that would've been kind of cool for him."
Repeatedly though, during a FaceTime interview Monday, Smith returned to the bigger picture.
"Maybe it's not a popular thing for a baseball guy to say, but I think we gotta really keep things in perspective. Companies are closing down, people are losing jobs, businesses and loved ones. There's a lot more serious issues going on out there than cancelling a baseball season."
Smith says ultimately, he's just glad this group at least got to play 17 games together. And as for that potential trip to Omaha, to the College World Series, he says, "you know, it's not just our opinion, I think people in baseball recognize how special this team was. So not to have that...but you know what? That's the reality that we're in. You know, it didn't happen. We can't control that, we can't worry about that. Now, all we gotta do is build another team like that."