Max Rossiter is one of three seniors on this Sun Devil team. He opted to return to Tempe for his fourth year of college after being drafted in the 32nd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates because he wanted one more shot at winning a collegiate national championship.
The Gilbert, Arizona native played two seasons at Central Arizona College before transferring to Arizona State last year. As a junior at ASU, he earned Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic honorable mention. He finished last year second on the team with a .326 batting average and fourth with a .449 slugging percentage. Rossiter drove in 18 runs and belted nine doubles in the 40 games he played in.
This season, he wants to continue to expand his leadership both on and off the field because a trip to Omaha is not out of the question. Let's take this moment and Get to Know Your Sun Devil.
Is there any reason you wear jersey number 55?
"Well, I've always worn No. 8, and when I came to Arizona State, Kasey Coffman had No. 8 and my second favorite number is 55. I wear it because Russell Martin is a major league catcher in the big leagues who was with the Yankees and is now with the Pirates. He wears it, so I wear it because he is one of my favorite players."
Have you always been a backstop or did you play other positions when you were younger?
"I grew up and my dad was a catcher when he played, so when I was really young, my dad bought me gear and had me in the street catching. I've always been a catcher, but my secondary positions I used to play a little shortstop, third base, and first base here and there but I was mostly a catcher my whole life."
Being a local Arizonian, what's your favorite restaurant and what would you order?
"I love Mexican food. It's one of my favorite foods. Rosita's is a good Mexican place close to Tempe and I would order a cheese quesadilla. That's all I like. It's simple but it's good."
How does it make you feel being one of only three seniors on this team?
"It makes me feel good. I can't believe I'm already a senior in college, but guys look to me as a role model and a leader this year. I've been through the process. This is my fourth year now so I'm not one of those freshmen who don't know what's going on yet and learning the ropes. It's basically just a chance for me to help the younger guys because when I was younger, like freshman and sophomore, I had senior leaders helping me. I just want to be there for them and help them through this and be there whenever they need me."
You mentioned at Media Day that one of your goals was to win the national championship at ASU. Would you say the experience you gained playing in the Junior College World Series will help you at all this year?
"Oh definitely. That was probably one of the best experiences I had going to the JuCo World Series, obviously getting one game short of (winning) the national championship. Here (at Packard Stadium), every game you play is in front of a big crowd, but at that World Series it's a different atmosphere. I think it has helped me a lot and I feel like JuCo is like the minor leagues for Arizona State and now I've gone through the minor leagues and I'm in the major leagues."
Speaking of the Major Leagues, if you could pick any former or current Major League Baseball player to have a round of batting practice with, who would it be and why?
"It would be a current player. It would be Buster Posey. I'm a huge, huuuuge Buster Posey fan and everyone in the clubhouse knows it. I would love to just hang out with him, take BP and pick his brain from a catching standpoint and a hitting standpoint. Just as a young guy, he has done so much in the league. He's a great leader on and off the field and I look up to him a lot."
Would you say you try to model your game after him?
"I think so. I mean I watch him a lot on videos and obviously all the highlights of him on ESPN. Behind the plate, I feel like we have similar reactions back there and just how we call the game and handle pitchers. On the field, we're not over-the-top players. We're kind of low-key guys who just go about our business. So I do kind of model my game after him."
If your house was burning down and you could only take one thing, what would you save?
"Oh, that's a good one. I would pick my signed Yogi Berra baseball. My cousin lives in Omaha, Nebraska and he used to be a minor league baseball player for the Yankees and Yogi Berra came to his minor league complex and got a signed ball for me when I was really young. Yogi Berra, growing up, was my idol. That's where I got No. 8 from. That baseball means a lot to me."
What's your favorite baseball saying?
"Probably like when guys say ‘hit it with eyes' to ‘see it's way through the infield' or something like that. Or a ‘blooper.' I think that's a weird saying."
If you were trapped in a room with the U of A mascot, what would you do?
(Rossiter smiles and chuckles) "Probably beat him up."
There are some very talented pitchers in the staff this year. Is there anybody you are scared to catch?
"Nothing really too scared, but obviously when you have good arms and you haven't really caught them, there's a little bit of uncertainty. Brett Lilek has a really good arm and also Ryan Burr. They're two freshmen that stand out to me that have really live arms. Early in the fall when you're catching them the first couple of times, you don't really know what their ball is going to do. Now I'm comfortable with them. I would say those are the plus arms from the freshmen group and they've impressed me a lot."
How long would you say it takes for a catcher to adjust to a new pitcher?
"The big thing is catching bullpens is a lot different than the game. It's really important to get on the same page with them. Once you get into the game on the main field, it's totally different. I'd say at least three or four bullpens then at least a couple of intersquad (scrimmages). I have a lot of experience back there at the college ranks so I know, especially with the younger guys, how to work well with them. For me, I worry about the relationship with the pitcher because it'll make him throw better."
Who would you say has the nastiest off-speed pitch on the team?
"Alex Blackford. Really good curveball and a plus changeup. It's rare to have a guy with two plus off-speed pitches and Blacky has his curveball and a slider. He's a four pitch guy, so I mean it's pretty nasty."
Do you have a baseball nickname?
"My nickname used to be Yogi (from Yogi Berra) so all the guys and the buddies I used to grow up with all call me Yogi so it's kind of funny."
What's it like being a captain of this team?
"It's been great. I've always been a guy who has tried to get in leadership positions and obviously catcher is a leadership spot. I've enjoyed it, like you said I used to grow up here and I watched ASU baseball and it's just a dream to come here, let alone be a captain here. And last year was nice just to get a year of Sun Devil baseball under my belt. There is so much tradition here and it takes time to learn all the different traditions and what we do and what coach (Tim) Esmay wants you to do. It was nice to take a year and take all in and then this year, teach the younger guys and help them all out. Trevor Williams is great. It's good to have a pitcher and a position player as a leader. He takes care of the pitchers and I take care of position guys."