Arizona Diamondbacks infielder and soon-to-be ASU Hall of Famer Willie Bloomquist has rebuilt a once tenuous relationship with his alma mater. Now, he's focused on maintaining a relationship with the Major League that plays just miles from where he and his family have lived for the last 18 years.
"Obviously, it's a huge honor for me to be inducted in any Hall of Fame, but especially ASU. That's the school that I always wanted to go to ever since I was a kid, and when I got that call, it kind of blindsided me," said Bloomquist, a 12-year MLB veteran who just completed his third season with the D-Backs, and one of seven athletes who will be inducted into the ASU Hall of Fame at halftime of the Sun Devils' home football game with Colorado on Saturday.
Bloomquist grew up in Washington State but fell in love with ASU as a teenager after taking a trip to Tempe with his father. He starred in the infield and outfield for the Sun Devils from 1997-99, and led them to the 1998 national championship game. He remains the only player in ASU baseball history to record 100 hits in back-to-back seasons.
But Bloomquist's relationship with ASU turned sour when his Sun Devil coach, Pat Murphy, was forced to resign in 2009 for NCAA violations that occurred under his watch.
"It was awful hard for me for a while how Coach Murphy got, in my mind, the short end of the stick with everything that went down with him," he said. "I owe where I'm at today to him. You couldn't pay me enough to say a bad thing about Coach Murph.
"Not that I ever stopped supporting ASU, but I was disappointed in what happened for a while, and when you're that committed to a person, it takes a little time to get over that."
The passage of time, along with relationships he's built with current ASU baseball coach Tim Esmay and Sun Devil football coach Todd Graham, have helped to mend fences.
"Coach Graham, believe it or not, reached out to me last year and had me out to a football practice," he said. "It's just kind of little things like that to let you know that the university still cares about you and cares about making it kind of a family atmosphere.
"It's something I have gotten over. It's in the past, and I'm still proud to call myself a Sun Devil."
After spending the majority of his professional career on losing teams, Bloomquist finally got a taste of the postseason when the D-Backs won the National League West division title in 2011. "I'd played on a lot of dismal teams prior to that, so that was obviously one of the highlights of my career," he said. "We were a bunch of overachievers that proved a lot of people wrong that year."
And though he's set to become a free agent following the conclusion of this year's World Series, Bloomquist has made it clear that he and his family would like to remain in Arizona.
"I'm not sure which route they're going to go, but I think they understand my feelings and know where I'm at – the fact that I make my home here, I love it here, and that I've had the best three years of my major league career with them, and I'd love to stay," he said.
"I'd love to finish my career here, but if it doesn't work, I understand it's a business and I'm going to be just fine and going to move on and play somewhere else – and I'll probably circle that day on my calendar when I come back to play them."