Photos by CBBSN Author, Luke Ramirez.
Chatham, Mass. – For the NCAA’s 2018 leader in home runs, translating that success to the country’s premier summer wood bat league has been no challenge at all. Arizona State freshman Spencer Torkelson dropped 25 bombs in 55 games and is currently the Cape Cod league home run co-leader with five in 12 games.
He was recently awarded Freshman of the Year by Perfect Game and broke the school’s freshman record set by the MLB’s home run king Barry Bonds. After an unprecedented debut as a college player (.320/.440/.743), Torkelson has become one of the most exciting players to watch in the Cape as the success he had with ASU has seeped into a stint with the Chatham Anglers.
“The biggest thing about hitting with wood out here is sticking with my approach and not getting outside myself,” Torkelson said.
He hit a home run every 8.2 at bats in the spring and is nearly keeping the pace now circling the pillows every 7.2 times up. One other way he’s helping out the A’s this summer is pulling duty in the daily youth camps put on at Veterans Field in Chatham.
“He’s a pleasure to be around, not just as a baseball player but as a person,” Chatham head coach Tom Holliday said. “He’s the first to get up and volunteer for our youth camps in the morning after playing every inning of almost every game out here. That tells you what kind of a guy he is.”
Torkelson doesn’t just teach the youngsters how to let one fly, he shows them during wiffle ball at the end of each session.
“The summer camp is actually really fun,” Torkelson said. “We start at 8:15 and the kids are freaking awesome. We run them through a few drills and then just play wiffle ball and it’s a blast.
“It brings you back to the mentality that it’s just a game and everyone is really out here just to have fun doing it.”
The competition has kept Torkelson sharp as well as fellow Pac-12 slugger Andrew Vaughn (Cal) shares the home run lead as of June 26. Both players have left the Cape Cod early to report to camp with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. They will play through August, however Torkelson has already committed to coming right back to Chatham for the final weeks of the Cape season.
“There’s temptations to go home and lay around the swimming pool doing nothing but he wants to come back and play some more,” Holliday said. “That’s pretty unique from my experience.”
The father of Matt Holliday, a seven-time MLB all-star and National League batting champion in 2007 (.340), wasn’t shy about drawing a comparison between Torkelson and his son.
“When he hits the ball on the nose, it’s that same sound as when Matt hit the ball,” Holliday said.
On June 17 against the Bourne Braves, Torkelson laid into a 3-1 fastball that sailed far past the batting cages beyond the fence in left center, easily covering 400 feet.
“He has a bright future and it’s been really fun to be a part of that,” Holliday said.
Like every other player in the Cape Cod league, the experience of playing baseball everyday is the richest benefit of all.
“I’ve definitely gotten a little taste of what it’s like playing like a pro,” Torkelson said. “You know minor leaguers grind every day and that’s how it is out here. You feel super sore but you still have to go get the morning lift in and stay on top of your recovery.”
With his main focus centered around leading the Sun Devils to an NCAA playoff appearance and beyond, it’s difficult to ignore what a major league level prospect he has become. Scouts marvel, but also cringe watching each long ball leave his bat after passing on his pure power out of high school. He will continue to swing wood bats during the hot months of summer before reporting back to ASU for his sophomore campaign. At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter what Torkelson is holding up there.
“I love swinging wood. It’s the greatest sound in the world.”