'The Legend of Torkelson': ASU slugger is prepared for MLB Draft and beyond
There’s a ‘type’ attracted to, and associated with, Joey Gomes’ line of work.
They might as well arrive for a session with the private hitting coach wearing a neon yellow jumpsuit and a sign plastered on their forehead reading, “Look at me.”
With an often-un-earned swagger, wide-eyed young athletes stroll into their inaugural session with Gomes like a walking resume – their hat, shirt, and shorts plastered with their greatest achievements as a self-proclaimed veteran.
If you can’t tell they play baseball, the outfit failed.
“When I meet kids for the first time now, they come in head to toe with every accolade they have ever gotten,” Gomes said. “You get the Perfect Game All-American shirt. You’ve got the Under Armour All-American hat. You’ve got the Area Code baseball bat. You’ve got the USA batting gloves.
“As they walk in, they’ve kind of got their frickin letterman jacket.”
Gomes received a call in 2012 from the father of a kid whom, he had been told, was a mythical figure roaming around the Petaluma, California little-league fields. It was a one-on-one 30-minute lesson scheduled just after Spencer Torkelson had finished up one of the most historic little-league seasons in the Northern California town.
Rick Torkelson walked his son into the batting cages where Gomes rented space. The blaring music littered with curse words lit his eyes up — an off-putting introduction to his son’s next progression.
This was a foreign baseball environment to the Torkelsons, one that stereotypically attracts the letterman crowd and not those that look like they could have come straight from their eighth-grade history class.
“I’ll tell you what (he was probably wearing),” Gomes said, “it was probably a white t-shirt and Vans.”
It was an unexpected start to a session of which, seven years later, Gomes can recall nearly every detail.
After Rick followed the local recommendations and called for a lesson, Gomes penned Torkelson’s name on his schedule. Within days, he had received a number of text messages from area coaches informing him on what they called, “The Legend of Torkelson.”
The Legend of Torkelson.
That little league season, at age 12, Torkelson blasted 36 home runs, a number that still stands as a Petaluma Little League record. He’s modest about it, quickly reminding those who ask that he had a juiced-up metal bat and only had to clear a short 200-foot fence. Oh, and possibly undersold the number.
“It was 38 (home runs) but he’ll say it was only 36.” Rick jokes.
Hidden away in his house, Rick has scorebooks stacked up like scrapbooks. Long before he could hop online and find Spencer’s games and stats in three seconds, he recorded them himself.
As Rick rattles off Spencer’s stats, down to nearly the exact batting average, it seems obvious they’re just for show at this point.
Or perhaps they’re a reminder to all those who come calling that the numbers are real. That beyond his obvious bias, his son was really, really that good. Scratch that. Special. His son was special -- still is -- and probably will be for a long time.
After two years and 48 home runs at Arizona State, Torkelson has transformed into one of the best prospects in America. If he stays healthy, most around baseball would agree he’ll be a Top 5 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, possibly even No. 1.
“The conversations with scouts about Tork have all been like, ‘Is this guy for real? Is he the real deal?’ The answer is simple,” said former Oklahoma State coach Tom Holliday, who coached Torkelson on the Cape Cod League’s Chatham Anglers. “I think I’ve had in my coaching career somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 first-rounders. As long as he doesn’t get hurt, he’s a first-rounder.”
Should he be the top selection, Torkelson would join Rick Monday (1965), Floyd Bannister (1976) and Bob Horner (1978) as the only Sun Devils to go No. 1. He would also be the first ASU alum since Antone Williamson (1994) to hear his name amongst the top five picks of the draft.
But Williamson is perhaps the perfect example of why people are hesitant to start peppering young stud’s names with definitives. He hit .357 with 33 home runs in his three years in Tempe before heading to the 69-win Milwaukee Brewers. After one year, he was the 64th-highest-rated prospect in the league. At the end of his big-league career, he hadn’t gone to the plate 64 times.
The plan, however, was so perfect. Williamson was going shoot through the minors and be the power-hitting first baseman of the future. Sound familiar? The fans littering Twitter with the #TankforTork moniker would say so.
Talk to anyone who has ever met Torkelson and they’ll emphatically repeat the same sentiment: He’s different. They have to keep saying it over and over because they want to get it through. They know it sounds cliché. But he is; he is different.
They’ve seen him do extraordinary things, things that make them whole-heartedly believe he will not fail on his path to MLB stardom as others before him have. You see the pressure of that notion is so grand, so towering that many fail because of it.
But making the big leagues was never a dream to Torkelson. It was a plan.
Where’s the pressure in that?
“My dad would always say, ‘You know I never tell you to go to the gym?’ and I’m like, ‘I know. I just go,’” Torkelson said. “He never tells me to go hit. I think you’re kind of born with it and you either have it or you don’t -- and the guys that do have it will end up making it.”
Gomes’ isn’t a fan of egos. He’s the one whose clientele is full of recent or future draft picks. In his brother Jonny, he’s the one with a bloodline that includes a World Series champion. And he’s the one with 10 years of professional baseball experience under his belt. Maybe some kids don’t think that’s enough.
Perhaps they know better.
Gomes thought that was going to be Torkelson, the best player in his area who knew it and wanted everyone to know it, too. He was flummoxed by the thought of “teaching” the little-league Babe Ruth.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, f---,’” Gomes said. “If he’s got little-league coaches texting a hitting guy about him, I’m like, ‘What am I going to tell the kid?’ I start thinking about it, like how am I going to handle this?
“If the kid just got done breaking the f------ home-run record in Petaluma and I tell him to make an adjustment, he might look at me like, ‘Are you sure, bro? I just went 4-for-3 yesterday. You sure I need to make that adjustment?’”
The session wasn’t going to prove Torkelson could hit. Opposing coaches don’t reach out in droves unless there’s some off-the-cusp talent. Gomes wasn’t trying to be the local PGA Pro, overanalyzing and fine-tuning a swing that was already doing wonders.
But he could figure out more about this Torkelson kid as a person. How could I test this so-called legend, Gomes thought?
Basically, do nothing. See how he reacts.
For the 30 minutes, Gomes stood off to the side as Torkelson hit off a tee. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. There was no speak of torque, hip rotation, stance, leg kick or even really hitting the ball.
This was a highly-recommended hitting coach that had clients on the verge of getting a signing bonus larger than his annual salary and he wasn’t giving a 12-year old a single tip. Like a fire alarm with its unnerving repetitiveness, Gomes repeated the same line: “Try to keep it up the middle. Try to keep it up the middle.” No more.
“Spencer Torkelson did something only a handful of kids have ever done,” Gomes admitted. “He listened. He didn’t say a word. I think I even said some really rudimentary stuff. Like things your dad told you. And he did it. He didn’t like say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but he was like, ‘Absolutely. Man, OK, this is great.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, this kid is different.”
For the first time, Gomes felt like Mr. Miyagi. Here was his Daniel-san ready to learn from a guru and instead was waxing cars and painting fences. It told him nothing, yet spoke volumes.
Gomes didn’t give Torkelson another lesson. To Torkelson’s baseball progression, Gomes couldn’t make himself most useful as a coach.
A mentor, though? There, he could shed wisdom about things this 12-year old didn’t already excel at – the things that have tripped up hordes of so-called unequivocal talents like Torkelson and the tips that don’t get mentioned at a Perfect Game showcase.
The actual art of hitting is often left out of the conversations. Why spend so much time working on something largely dictated by someone standing 60-feet, six inches away? Who knows what that guy is going to do?
Everything up to that point, though? That’s in the hitter’s hands.
“The process,” as Torkelson refers to it.
Eight years later, it’s hardly changed. If it did, Torkelson wouldn’t be where he is. He’d be just another kid, another “mental midget,” as he calls them.
What is a “mental midget,” you ask?
To Torkelson, those are the players that think they’re better than the game, who think they’re too good to fail, to strike out, to slump. The ones who think a slump means everything thing they’ve learned, everything they were taught and everything they’re doing is a calumny.
Maybe some poor at-bats require a bat change. A few more and they’ve tweaked their pre-game routine. After a multiple-game slump, they have a new swing. Who knows, later on, they’re changing lottery numbers on a weekly basis or sprinting across the casino to bet black because it just hit.
OK, maybe that’s too far. But the point remains, Torkelson believes, above everything, process and routine -- or perhaps the failure to develop each -- cause talented prospects to drop like flies.
“That’s why guys with the most talent you hear about don’t make it,” Torkelson said. “0-for-10’s happen in baseball. You have to stick to a routine and stick to a process.”
Torkelson’s Twitter bio reads, “Enjoy the process to being great.”
It’s been there ever since he made an account at 14 years old. The night before he shipped off from Cape Cod to North Carolina for Team USA practices, he was asked what it means.
Torkelson has thought about this before. A lot. There’s no hesitation in his voice. He just goes. This isn’t about baseball anymore. It’s about being the best person you can be. Learning from mistakes. Chasing goals.
Torkelson’s goal just happens to be different than most of his age. He wants to make the major leagues. Always has. The painting of San Francisco’s Oracle Park in his bedroom -- he was going to play there. The 30 MLB pennants on his wall -- he was going to play for one of them.
He was in the Arizona State weight room in 2017. A freshman who barely cracked Baseball America’s Top 500 in a ranking system that favored nearly a dozen of his teammates was working out. In for a team lift that included no coaches, he went about his business.
This was the same kid who consistently ran into his parent’s bedroom, poking and prodding his dad with that loud whisper eager kids seem to perfect, “Dad it’s almost five.” That’s 5 a.m. Hockey practice started at 6 a.m. So naturally, 9-year old Spencer Torkelson needed to get there on time.
This was the same kid who, during his senior year of high school, politely asked if he could call Philadelphia Phillies’ area scout Joey Davis back. He was in the middle of a post-game weight-lifting session and wanted to finish up.
“So, I called his dad and said, ‘Hey Mr. Torkelson. (Spencer) just played a game. Does he always lift?” Davis asked Rick. “He says, ‘He takes one day off a year from lifting in the weight room … and it’s on Christmas.’ That’s the type of kid we’re dealing with here.”
Torkelson’s workouts or training has never been dictated on who was -- or wasn’t -- there with him. Others, he learned, didn’t abide by that logic. A veteran teammate waltzed into the weight room, dilly-dallied around for a few minutes, then headed for the door, out to explore all the non-baseball-related activities Tempe has to offer.
Torkelson stared. Part disgust. Part disappointment. He was brought into ASU with a loaded freshman class that, in head coach Tracy Smith’s recruiting pitch was going to help return the Sun Devils to the College World Series. After the worst season in program history, what right did this guy have to not contribute?
“That’s why you’re going to graduate from here,” Torkelson yelled to deaf ears.
“What I was saying is, you don’t want to get drafted?” Torkelson said. “You’re going to go through the motions, get your free education, then you’re going to be done. You’re going to be working a nine-to-five.”
To those around him, it became evident well before he could drive that Torkelson may not have to work a nine-to-five. Some earlier than others.
Rick and Lori Torkelson had always loved sports. Though they both excelled in tennis, they watched everything.
After graduating from Chico State with a Degree in Accounting, Rick, a CPA, co-founded an accounting firm in Petaluma that later became Torkelson and Associates CPAs, LLP. In 1999, both hoping for a boy, Spencer was born.
It’s easy to look back now and believe it was fate, or perhaps they held a preconceived notion of the hobby their son would take to quicker than a dog pouncing on dropped dinner. Lori, though, just really enjoyed baseball, and her son’s birth announcement needed a theme. So, they mailed the message.
Rookie of the Year. Spencer Enochs Torkelson. Born August 26, 1999.
Destiny ensued. At 1-year old, Torkelson was smacking wiffle balls thrown at him. By 5, they had to change the tee ball rules for him. With innings that ended after five runs or the very rare three outs, kids were only allowed just one base.
That was until Torkelson kept smacking balls off a tee into the 200-foot fence. It was cute, to begin with, watching him sprint all the way around the bases only to go back to first. Then it kept happening. The team parents decided he could go to second.
“It was mind-blowing,” said Mike Enochs, Torkelson’s uncle (Lori’s brother). “Like, ‘Holy cow.’ How is he even hitting it? And when he does hit it, how does he hit it that hard, that far?”
Around that time, too, the Torkelsons went on a family vacation to watch Lori and Mike’s brother, Joe, play soccer for the German team Osnabruck, of which he owns the club record for games played. Torkelson, however, didn’t seem to care what sport his uncle played, walking around the German streets in a full baseball uniform.
As he grew, the younger kids in Petaluma began stalking his at-bats, sprinting behind the outfield fence when he came up. By 2012, Torkelson’s record year, they could nearly fill up a backpack of home-run balls.
Late that summer, he was selected to the Petaluma Valley All-Star team.
During double-elimination portion of the regional stage -- one of the first rounds of the worldwide tournament that culminates with the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania -- Torkelson’s team played Petaluma National, the city’s other little league based on the west side of the US-101 freeway.
National won the first game. Then after a run through the loser’s bracket, with Torkelson on the mound, Petaluma Valley took the first of two straight games they needed to advance.
He couldn’t pitch again, though.
Petaluma National went on to beat Torkelson’s squad and finish third in the Little League World Series.
“All the 12-year old girls were all over them,” Torkelson said of Petaluma National. “You’re jealous of them. They had 2,000 followers on Instagram and they’re 12.”
Torkelson can appreciate it now. Petaluma was on national TV. His friends were on national TV. Plus, they returned bearing batting gloves and souvenirs to Torkelson and other local kids.
Sure, this team from Torkelson’s hometown was garnering the publicity and notoriety, but at the end of the day, Torkelson’s talent triumphed over any Petaluma player who traveled to Williamsport. Everyone knew it.
“He was the best player in Petaluma but he wasn’t on that team,” Paul Maytorena, Torkelson’s coach at Casa Grande High School, said. “It drove him a little bit. He thrives on being an underdog.”
Torkelson used to yell out towards the mound, begging his uncle to whip his arm a little faster. Enochs’ 80-mile per hour heater wasn’t cutting it for a 12-year old who knew he was soon going to be facing changeups quicker than that.
But Enochs kept cocking it back for his nephew. Even now, when Torkelson returns from school, the pair meet up at the Casa Grande fields for impromptu batting practice, which turns into a one-man home run derby on the rare wind-less Northern California day.
Enochs will send out the bat signal to admiring kids who begged Torkelson’s uncle for the chance to shag for, and hit with, the Arizona State star. On those days, he’s not touching 80 -- that would be no fun. He’ll groove him into the right-handed Torkelson and watch the necks of the shaggers tilt up in awe.
“There’s like four or five other kids, they beg me like, ‘When Spenny’s in town, can I hit with him?’” Enochs said. “This winter or the winter before, he must have hit five or six that went between 380- and 420-feet.”
Balls don’t travel that far at Casa Grande home games -- a well-known home-run hell for right-handed hitters, in large part, because of gusting winds sneaking over the left-field wall.
Even so, after 110 games, Torkelson finished his high-school career with 136 hits, a slash line of .430/.556/.642 and nearly 100 free passes to first base, an egregious nod of respect. But the slugger who never spent a game away from varsity only belted 11 home runs.
For reference, he did that in 22 games with Arizona State.
But the home runs never seemed to define him in the way they did, at least at the beginning, by a captivated, caught-off-guard audience in Tempe.
The eyes in Petaluma still saw him as the area’s best player, the the kid who was being rewarded from not hitting snooze on his 5:15 a.m. alarm clock three days a week so he could lift before school. It was great results matching great character for a baseball player who didn’t “smell himself” after starting right away, a rarity according to Maytorena
Or, perhaps, Tempe was the reason no one seemed to be thrown off.
You see, if Torkelson’s college plans were already locked in after year two, what did it matter how many home runs he hit?
Arizona State assistant coach Ben Greenspan began recruiting Torkelson during his sophomore year. In that summer, Torkelson and his family paid a visit to the desert. Head coach Tracy Smith was selling the family on what evolved into ASU starting Torkelson, Alika Williams, Drew Swift and Gage Workman as freshmen in 2018.
“We visited and toured the campus and they gave us the pitch that they were trying to get all these guys together,” Lori said. “And we knew they hadn’t won a national championship in a while so they kind of said, ‘We’re trying to get these guys together and win another won.’”
That was great and all but Torkelson didn’t need much of a pitch. Not when he caught a glimpse of No. 24 amongst ASU’s retired numbers.
To Torkelson, ASU wasn’t just appealing because of its historic baseball program and even more historic weather and excitement. This was the place where Barry Bonds became Barry Bonds. Where arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived learned and grew.
Torkelson could follow in those footsteps.
Even when he was young, Torkelson was like Bonds. The effortlessness of clobbering balls 450-feet aside, here was another player who seemingly couldn’t go a game without getting intentionally walked, who maybe saw three hittable pitches a game and had to capitalize on them. A player who, at times, seemed too good for his competition.
“I knew ASU was a great baseball school,” Enochs said. “Barry Bonds, who is both mine and Spencer’s favorite player of all time, he went there. That was a big thing.”
Without a hesitation, Torkelson, before his junior season started, committed to wearing the same jersey his idol once did.
And Torkelson doesn’t go back on his word, so much so that Lori admitted there were no more visits, no discussions about his college future after he gave a verbal commitment.
Years later, as most players selected to Team USA trekked home instead of finishing the summer with their Cape Cod team, Holliday learned of Torkelson’s rock-solid commitments.
“The guy at Team USA told me (Torkelson) made it very clear to get him a plane ticket back to the Cape,” Holliday said. “Spencer Torkelson, when he talks to you, it’s coming from the heart. He told me he’d come back, I never even doubted him.”
Joey Davis was standing outside of a bus in Hickory, North Carolina.
He waited and waited, like someone who just made eye contact at their high-school reunion, the ‘Will they remember me?’ thought process ran through his mind.
Off to the side, as dozens of college kids with Team USA jerseys stepped off, Torkelson was the last to exit. Davis hadn’t seen him in months, approaching the Arizona State rising junior with caution in case he was received as some foreign presence.
“Hey Spencer, I wanted to say it’s Joey,” Davis said, extending his arm out for a handshake.
That wasn’t necessary.
Torkelson’s face lit up when he spotted the Phillies’ area scout. He rushed over to Davis, one-upping his handshake attempt by corralling him into a jubilant bear hug.
“That just made my day that a kid would remember me three years down the road from scouting him as a high-school kid,” Davis said. “I got a great big bear hug from maybe the first player taken in the draft.”
The first player taken in the draft? It’s almost incredible the ease to which that flowed out of Davis’ mouth. The first time he set eyes on the buzzed-haired teenager, the Phillies were looking at Torkelson as a possible third- or fourth-round selection.
As the nearby area scout specializing in evaluating right-handed power hitters, they sent Davis to check on the slugger from Petaluma.
According to Rick and Lori, the Royals and the Phillies were most active in scouting Torkelson, but no one was around more than Davis, who watched him play “eight-to-10 times.” From first glance, Davis saw glimpses of Phillies’ slugger Rhys Hoskins, whom he scouted and eventually drafted.
“He grinds out at-bats. For a bigger guy, it was a compact swing” Davis said. “The way he went about his business, the way he prepared, the way he keeps his body in shape, the weightlifting is just tremendous. He’s like a professional.”
That weightlifting acumen made its way into early draft-room discussions. There were other scouts questioning Torkelson’s athletic ability. Was he just a big, clunky baseball player, they wondered. After all, he was 6-foot-2, 205-pounds. The short answer? No.
But sometimes scouts need to make their points in brasher, clear ways.
Davis pulled that off. He found Casa Grande football film and flipped through Torkelson’s highlights at running back. Playing on the big screen at the head of the table inside an MLB draft room was high school football tape.
“That was a first for me, I’ve never seen it,” Davis joked. “But I was pulling out all of the punches. You would be very, very impressed with his football film.”
On one of his last visits to Petaluma, Davis went to the Torkelson’s home. Lori cooked up spaghetti and garlic bread with salad on the side. The quartet just talked and talked, but in typical scout fashion, there were no guarantees.
After all, Davis work as an area scout is just a small piece of the puzzle in the draft’s grand scheme -- in Torkelson’s case, a west-coast crosschecker and two national crosscheckers also looked at him on behalf of the Phillies.
But Davis did gauge one thing from the dinner. If the money was right, Torkelson wanted to kick-start his major-league career. Rick and Lori said Torkelson was looking for a $500,000 signing bonus and if a team gave it to him, he was more than likely off to the majors.
(For reference, the Phillies’ third-round pick in 2017, pitcher Connor Seabold received a $525,000 signing bonus).
“I didn’t know what to expect,’ Torkelson said. “I had never known anyone going through that process. This whole process -- the draft -- is so new to me.”
Torkelson and his parents sat by the TV for three days and vigorously watch the draft. Even Rick and Lori admit it now, the whole draft process was a bit eye-opening. With no basis to go off of, they, on the fly, had to find representation, navigate meetings and educate themselves on the MLB Draft’s complicated nature.
Even for a pair of CPAs, the jargon and terminology associated with the draft was, and still is, overwhelming and incredibly confusing.
Rounds three and four went by with no mention of Torkelson’s name. Eventually, the whole three-day extravaganza had wrapped up and, without even the option of a decision, Torkelson was headed to Tempe.
“Once a kid of Spencer’s caliber, once he slips past the third or fourth round,” Davis said, “I think what happens in the business is we all think as area scouts that he’s no longer signable and he’s probably not going to get the money he’s looking for and is probably going to end up at Arizona State.”
“Going to college was the best thing that ever happened to him,” Lori said.
Torkelson arrived at ASU in the fall of 2017. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t the best player on his team.
Ok, well he wasn’t rated as the best player on his team. Eight commits in the Sun Devils’ Class of 2021 signing class were ranked higher than Torkelson -- two signed with an MLB team out of high school and another pair transferred out of Tempe after one year.
“It was intimidating,” Torkelson said. “You don’t know anything about them other than they’re an ASU baseball player and they were drafted out of high school. And I’m like, ‘Well, I wasn’t drafted out of high school and I’m just a freshman at ASU.’”
How was Torkelson supposed to know how good his teammates actually were or weren’t? All he saw was MLB teams drafted them and not him. In his mind, that meant they were doing everything right, on the inside track towards success.
His doubts, though, didn’t lead him towards complete overhaul. Gomes taught him better than that. But he could outwork them. For all these years, Gomes had to scare Torkelson by planting thoughts inside his head that kids in the Dominican Republic were up before him, out-training him.
But that was always such a far-off example. Now, the example was in the same clubhouse.
Torkelson admitted he struggled during his first fall on a college campus. He was overdoing it, trying too hard in a foreign environment.
Then one day in November, ASU hitting coach Michael Earley brought Torkelson out on the field and started flipping him balls. Before they started, he offered a simple challenge.
“See how easy you can hit one out,” Earley said.
Torkelson started “flicking” balls out of a deep Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“He’s like, ‘You don’t have a leg kick.’ I was messing around because I saw everyone had leg kicks and I’m like, ‘Oh god, it’s college, I need a leg kick,” Torkelson said.
By late January of that year, Torkelson had regained his confidence. The freshman was still weeks away from his first collegiate game but he wanted to try and break a record. He did that enough in Petaluma, gave enough people in his home-town stories that started with, “I remember when Spencer Torkelson did …” why not do the same at ASU?
He had just finished his round of batting practice when he hopped out of the cage with a thought, asking Greenspan if anyone had ever hit the Sun Devil Baseball banner at the top of the batter’s eye in center field.
For those keeping track at home, that’s a 410-foot wall in center and about a 40-foot wall. The banner starts about 30 feet up the wall.
Greenspan said he’d never seen anyone hit it. Naturally, Torkelson continued to inquire, asking what’s the furthest he’s seen a ball hit at Muni. The Sun Devil assistant told the baseball player-turned-detective that then-sophomore Hunter Bishop, who was selected No. 10 by the Giants in the 2019 draft once hit it three-quarters of the way up the batter’s eye.
Two rounds of batting practice later, Greenspan’s answer changed. Torkelson hit the first “A” in “Baseball” on the center-field banner.
“No one stays the same — you get better or you get worse,” Smith said at the end of 2017. “So, it’s which ones understand that you still have things to work on in your game or which ones say, ‘You know what, I’ve got it all figured out coach. Leave me alone.’”
That moment became indicative of Torkelson’s Sun Devil career though two years.
He shattered his favorite player’s freshman school home-run record, which was later greeted with a seldom Barry Bonds’ shout out. He led the nation in long balls with 25. He racked up enough accolades to fill a small trophy case.
He led opposing defenses to employ the bold, and rarely successful, four-outfielder configuration. He ensured he would never have to worry about going undrafted again. He made baseball super-agent Scott Boras his advisor.
And possibly most noteworthy, he led some pretty pissed off Oregon State fans to accuse him of taking steroid midgame. Now, you have to be pretty darn good to accomplish that last one.
“Those Oregon State, they don’t see me in the weight room,” Torkelson said. “But I’ve got 25 home runs so I’m obviously doing something right. When it all pans out, it shows who is working hard. Maybe someone has a good season, but I guarantee you there’s not one guy in the world who had a Hall-of-Fame career and didn’t work hard.”
He slung his bag off his shoulders and set it down next to the stairs. Still in his uniform following a series’ finale win at USC, he was headed down the sidewalk path behind the third-base line toward the team bus when a few kids ran down the stairs and called his name.
The kids, none of which looked older than 12, opened up a folder with a picture of the Arizona State first baseman, handing him a Sharpie and a smile. He obliged, signing the pictures and thanking them before they joyously whisked back to their parents.
Torkelson’s gotten used to, not necessarily fame, but being recognized. When he was younger, it didn’t make sense.
Why were kids his age freaking out when he walked by? Why were they hyping up so much? After all, he was just like them. A normal kid who loved baseball. What’s so special about that?
Torkelson has come to learn what’s special about that, about why people are fascinated with him. Right now, it’s a few kids on a back staircase. In a few years, it’ll probably be spring training. The two kids will be 300, all yelling “Hey Number 20!” as he walks by.
And he’ll come over because he’s a good guy. Of all the things everyone else wants to show off, he wants to make an example out of that.
“I really appreciate it and I don’t take it for granted. I use it as a way to show people that they’re not all mean guys. Average dudes can (do it too). It doesn’t take some stuck-up guy to make it to the big leagues or get drafted.”
Torkelson doesn’t like to talk or really think about the 2020 draft. As well as anyone in his position, he knows he could go look online and find a million different websites or blogs that have his name at No. 1.
It would probably feel pretty good.
He can look once and smile, his dream plastered on the internet by some writer. He could take a second or two and visualize himself on draft day, he’s hugging his parents, congratulatory texts are flying in from Petaluma and a million fans have just learned his name.
But, then, maybe he’ll look at it one too many times and say to himself, “Maybe I don’t need to go to the gym today.”
In all sports, the draft is made into this grandiose spectacle, the day where athletes can kick back and say, “All that hard work was worth it.”
It’s branded as the day a bunch of dreams come true. In reality, it’ll be the day Torkelson’s dream starts.
“It’s been in the making with him,” Gomes said. “And I’m not talking about the crazy Russian, the kid did a somersault at 2(-years old) so you put him in the Olympic camp. It’s what this kid has wanted. He’s like, ‘I’m just hitting play on life.’”
Enochs, who said any team would be making a mistake if they passed on his nephew at No. 1, has already dreamed about the day he can retire and just follow Torkelson around the country. His tickets waiting at will call, he’ll walk right into a bunch of stadiums he’s only seen on TV and watch the kid he’s been tossing balls to since birth play on the biggest stage imaginable.
Holliday said Torkelson reminds him of one of his former players at Oklahoma State, two-time All-Star Robin Ventura. Davis compared him to Hoskins and five-time All-Star Matt Williams.
No pressure, right?
There are hoards of people so close to Torkelson who have no problem throwing grand notions out there about his future. Some did it when he was 12 and hitting more home runs than people could keep track of, back then they thought he may be able to go to a powerhouse college.
Somehow, he only got better, only worked harder. They’re confident no draft slot could change that.
“I know he’s going to work,” Davis said. “I know his work ethic will not change. And I know that he’s going to stay humble. That is not going to happen with him. That’s a lot of pressure on a kid, but if anyone is going to handle it, it’s going to be Spencer.”