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La Cueva grad finds his niche in ASU bullpen

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Josh McAlister enters his junior season at Arizona State with a goal.

Having added to his family legacy in sports and having changed his pitching delivery, the 2010 La Cueva graduate has dealt with plenty of change.

Now, the 6-foot-1, 169-pound right-hander is dedicated to changing the fact that the Sun Devils haven’t won a national championship since 1981.

“The biggest goal right now is winning a national title,” he said. “This team is really close, we have great chemistry, and we’re really talented.”


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ASU, ranked No. 16 in the College Baseball preseason poll, begins its season Friday by hosting Bethune-Cookman. McAlister is ready.

“It’s going great,” he said. “We’re getting ready for the season to start, so we are in full-fledged practice mode and getting ready to go. It’s exciting; I love this time of year.”

McAlister won state titles at La Cueva in 2008 and 2010, and he caught the eye of then-ASU head coach Pat Murphy and his staff, who offered McAlister a scholarship. When Murphy left after the 2009 season, assistant Tim Esmay took over and kept their commitment.

“They liked me,” McAlister said, “brought me up to campus and offered me (a scholarship). I was like, ‘Where do I sign?’ It was an easy decision. I wanted to be here ever since I was 12 years old watching the College World Series.”

That was unfortunate news for New Mexico State, which had to be hoping McAlister would follow in his dad’s footsteps and become an Aggie. Josh’s father, Jamie McAlister, played quarterback for NMSU from 1979-82 and ranks sixth in school history in total offense with 4,890 yards.

“He knew I really didn’t want to stay in-state, although, I think he would have loved for me to go with the Aggies,” McAlister said. “He was really happy with my decision though.”

McAlister has made just eight appearances during his first two seasons with ASU — all out of the bullpen — but expects to break out as junior.

“The biggest thing is just experience; you can’t really trump that,” he said. “When I came out as a freshman, the game seemed faster and everything speeds up on you. … But as a junior, you feel at home.”

When he does go out and compete, McAlister, who has pitched over the top his entire career, will do so as a submarine pitcher. After last season, his pitching coach, Ken Knutson, wanted a submarine-style pitcher in his bullpen and McAlister figured the change was worth a try.

I’m actually a submarine pitcher right now,” he said. “I throw from basically below my knees and try to get right-handers out. I come in and throw a sinker or a slider for an inning or so. The best part about it is I can come back and do it again the next day because you don’t get sore.

“It’s worked out really well. It was a little bit difficult just because it was new to me and it was out of the ordinary. But the good thing about it was I don’t get sore. I never got sore after I threw, so I pretty much threw a bullpen (session) six days out of the week to really get the muscle memory down, and I think it really helped to speed up the process of learning to throw like that.”

McAlister, whose cousin Justin Duchscherer is a former MLB All-Star, said he has drawn some interest from teams at the next level, but despite being draft-eligible after this year, he is completely focused on winning at ASU.

“Every kid has MLB aspirations,” he said. “If some team comes calling, I’ll be very interested but let’s see how the season goes. I’ve had a Brewers guy call me but we’ll just have to see what happens. I’m not really too concerned about it because my main point is if we just focus on the team and the team does well, I’ll end up getting mine.”
— This article appeared on page D4 of the Albuquerque Journal