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Sun Devil catcher caught in spotlight

The Arizona Republic


The Arizona Republic

Four months ago, Tuffy Gosewisch was undersized and overlooked.

Oh, Gosewisch’s coaches and teammates knew how important the senior catcher was to Arizona State’s baseball team. But few outside Packard Stadium had any idea about the 6-foot, 185-pounder from Scottsdale Horizon High School.

That’s about to change. Having helped lead the Sun Devils back to the College World Series for the first time since 1998, Gosewisch’s cover is about to be blown.

“Him coming to the College World Series, now people around the country are going to see how great he is,” ASU pitcher Brett Bordes said.

Gosewisch commanded the spotlight Tuesday as the Sun Devils met with reporters before practice. He participated in a national media teleconference, then did a succession of stand-up interviews with Phoenix area television stations.

Just like that, Gosewisch went from an anonymous man in the mask to a media darling. Well, maybe not just like that. He has been squatting behind the plate for ASU since 2002, with a career batting average of .317. But this year he blossomed into the leader of a gritty, spirited team.

“I think everybody kind of likes to get some attention,” he said. “I like to get that attention, too, but only if it’s deserved.”

Gosewisch is a big reason the Sun Devils have finally returned to Omaha, Neb., which once seemed like their private playground. In Sunday’s decisive 9-8 super regional victory over defending champion Cal State Fullerton, Gosewisch banged out five hits, tying a career high.

A day earlier, he turned in a game-changing pickoff play to help preserve a 6-2 victory. Gosewisch sniffed out a Fullerton trick play with the bases loaded. When the runner at first pretended to fall down, Gosewisch feigned a throw in that direction, then whirled and pegged out the runner at third to douse a scoring threat. Gosewisch remembered being burned by a similar play as a freshman.

“I was like, ‘Wow, Tuffy, are you serious?’ ” Bordes said.

It was typical of Gosewisch, who always seems to be one pitch, one batter, one play ahead of everyone else. He’s always delighted in both the physical and mental challenge of catching. Now he’s ready to display his talents for a national audience. The Sun Devils open the College World Series against Nebraska tomorrow in Omaha.

“I feel like I’m kind of a coach on the field,” Gosewisch said. “You have to be kind of a Renaissance man out there.”

Gosewisch offers a natural story line. Start with his name – his parents, Nancy and Goose Gosewisch, dubbed him “Tuffy” because they were expecting a girl named Tiffany. (His real first name is James).

Gosewisch will turn 22 in August. But he wears braces and sports a crew cut – the kind your mom made you get before shipping you off to summer camp. He looks like the kid brother who ended up playing catcher because no one else would.

Gosewisch is only the second catcher in ASU history to start for three years. His last two years he was a semifinalist for the prestigious Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year Award.

Gosewisch may still be in college because he doesn’t have the sort of physique that makes pro scouts drool. He was selected in the 11th round by Philadelphia two weeks ago.

“It would be nice if I were bigger and faster, but I can’t really control that,” he said.

Gosewisch is hitting .323 this season with six home runs and a team-high 67 RBIs. He’s thrown out 25 of 64 attempted base stealers (39 percent). He allowed only one passed ball during the regular season and was charged with only two errors.

“He’s the most underrated catcher I’ve ever seen,” ASU pitcher Jason Urquidez said. “To me, he’s just indispensable. You know that if you throw a ball in the dirt, he’s going to block it. He’s always going to pick you up.”

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