June 5, 2008
By Dan Zeiger, East Valley Tribune - A month ago, the Arizona State baseball team bus pulled up to Eck Stadium, where the Sun Devils were playing a road game against Wichita State.
As the players looked out their windows to marvel at the facility, which is one of the most impressive in college baseball, someone shouted, "Hey Brett and Ike, you should take your signing bonuses and buy this place."
It is one of many jokes the team has had with third baseman Brett Wallace and first baseman/pitcher Ike Davis, who today are projected to be chosen in the first round of major league baseball's amateur draft - and, as a result, become instant millionaires.
Catcher Petey Paramore will also not be strapped for cash. He is expected to be chosen in the second round, or perhaps among 16 compensatory "sandwich" picks that follow Round 1.
For every dollar the trio will collect in their immediate baseball futures, there seemingly is a fond memory of the three seasons that Wallace, Davis and Paramore have played in maroon and gold. Rarely in the history of the program has three's company been this elite.
"They have served the program, and the program has served them," coach Pat Murphy said. "It's a perfect match of three kids that, academically, are all on track and prepared to move on in baseball and life....
"They have not once been late, never been in any sort of trouble, never been an academic issue. Everyone in this program can take after them."
Through thick and thin, long trips to Pullman, Wash., and back again, the three have slugged tape-measure home runs, overcome injuries, laughed at one another's goofy quirks, won two Pac-10 titles and shared the joy of playing in the College World Series - as well as the crushing agony of losing there.
"It's kind of creepy how fast it's gone," Davis said. "It's been the fastest three years of my life."
There are still big games left to play, as the Sun Devils play Fresno State in a best-of-three super regional starting on Saturday at Packard Stadium. Their time as collegians, though, is growing shorter, and each day, each experience in Tempe has prepared them for what comes next.
"It's special," Paramore said. "You look out every day and see the names of those players on the outfield wall. I've got a long way to go before I can be mentioned in the same breath as those guys, but having a good career at ASU is a good start to being successful in pro ball, with the lessons I've learned."
When the three arrived in Tempe in 2006 as part of a recruiting class rated second in the nation, Davis was anointed the Friday night starting pitcher and designated hitter - a workload Murphy later acknowledged was too big - Paramore filled the shoes of Tuffy Gosewisch, one of ASU's most decorated catchers, and Wallace was being marveled as the slick hitter in a fullback's body.
At that time, Wallace, Davis and Paramore were among a group of six players living in three Tempe apartments situated next to each other. It is where Davis established his reputation as a jokester, on some mornings waking his teammates while wearing a large Afro-style wig.
"Ike keeps everyone loose, and Petey, as the team captain, reins them in a little bit," Wallace said. "Ike grabbed me the first day we were here, hugged me and said, 'Me and you are going to win a national championship.'
"I said, 'Yes, we are.'"
Wallace and Davis have a bet - the one drafted highest uses part of his seven-figure signing bonus to take the other on vacation. Davis is most likely to get a free trip, as Wallace is expected to be the first Devil selected, as early as the 12th pick.
Since the draft went to its current format in 1987, ASU has not had three players taken in the first round. It has had two chosen in 1992, '94 and '97. If Paramore is a "sandwich" pick, he would be classified as a supplemental first-round choice, as ex-ASU outfielder Travis Buck (to the Oakland Athletics with the 36th pick overall) was in 2005.
With three players drafted so high, would it be a disappointment if the Sun Devils do not get the national title that Wallace and Davis spoke of?
"To me, it's not about the result," Wallace said. "It's about how we play. If we play as well as we can, but someone knocks us off, it's not a failure. It's not the end of the world. If someone else is better, we have to walk away content in the knowledge that we gave everything we had."
And for Wallace, Davis and Paramore, everything has been a lot.