ASU baseball has two of the nation’s best in its dugout

One of Tim Esmay’s biggest gifts this year came in a little package.  And it does a little bit of everything.

The first-year head baseball coach at Arizona State inherited a 5’8″ second baseman when he took over the program this year.  That player, Zack MacPhee was just selected as the ‘best player’ among D-I college programs by Baseball America.

BA writer, Aaron Fitt, didn’t include Sports Illustrated‘s high school cover boy, Bryce Harper, in compiling his mid-season report on the best in college baseball over the first seven weeks.  Bryce, who was dubbed “The Chosen One” by the magazine coming out of high school, decided to attend College of Southern Nevada, a community college.

MacPhee, a sophomore, is a handy guy to have around.  In addition to a dependable glove at second, a bat that leads the nation in triples, and a .429 batting average, he is also deadly on the base paths.  He has attempted 12 steals this season and only been tagged once.

He’s a much-improved player since last season, which wasn’t exactly a down year to begin with.  The freshman was an All-Pac-10 selection, hit .270 in 60 games, had four home runs and 39 RBIs.  He also stole eight bases, but already he’s way ahead of that pace.

“He’s just got this bottle of energy that he shows up with every day, and what’s nice is now he’s kind of controlled that energy,” Esmay is quoted in comparing this year to MacPhee’s freshman season.  “He knows how to use that in a positive manner.”

That’s the best player.  So who’s the best coach, you ask?

It only makes sense that the coach of the No. 1 team in the nation get some recognition.  Esmay, says Baseball America, is the Top Coach at this point in the season.  But for reasons beyond his 27-1 record.

Esmay has been picking up the pieces this year from a program left in disarray when Pat Murphy was fired in the off-season.  He has been able to get his players past the distractions and get them focused on the job at hand.  Building on the best start in school history, they’re working their way back to the College World Series.  And they’re doing it without one of their best pitchers, as Josh Spence continues to work his way back from an arm injury.

For all that, BA says Esmay’s selection as the best coach in the nation is a “slam dunk.”

And to top it off, both Esmay and MacPhee are local products.

Esmay went to high school at Horizon HS in Scottsdale, played at Scottsdale Community College, and then became a two-year starter for ASU.  He coached at Brophy College Prep and at Grand Canyon University, both in Phoenix.  He took the University of Utah to the WAC division title during an outstanding eight-year career at that school, and then spent five years as an assistant at ASU.

MacPhee is a graduate of Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Phoenix, where he was a first-team All-Conference selection in both his junior and senior years, and hit .433 his last year.  And yes, he was already a terror on the base paths; he stole 23 bases in his senior season.  He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 22nd round of the MLB draft in 2008.

And the way it’s looking… the Tigers picked up a gem with their 673rd pick.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)