SCOTTSDALE — Thanks to a family friendship with Ken Crenshaw, the Diamondbacks head athletic trainer, Grand Canyon senior infielder Austin Bull got to shoot the breeze with center fielder A.J. Pollock at Salt River Fields on Wednesday.
Not long after their conversation, Bull found himself playing against Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and other major league players as part of the Diamondbacks Collegiate Baseball Series.
“You want to tell yourself that it’s just baseball, it’s still the game,” said Bull, who grew up a Diamondbacks and attended Perry High School in Gilbert. “Then you look across, and it’s Goldy and all of them.”
The Collegiate Baseball Series started in 2015 when the club scrimmaged Arizona State at Salt River Fields. It continued last year the Diamondbacks faced Arizona. This year, Grand Canyon was the school and the Antelopes lost 9-1.
Still, the game served as a unique opportunity for Canyon’s players.
GCU senior outfield Kona Quiggle attended Greenway High School and also was a Diamondbacks follower.
“This was pretty wild,” he said. “Coming in here, being in the clubhouse, getting all this pro treatment, it was crazy. Playing against these guys, it’s all of our dreams. Playing against them was a lot of fun.”
GCU is in its final year playing at Brazell Stadium, which holds just 1,500 compared to Salt River Fields, which holds 11,000. And while the Spring Training facility wasn’t close to full, it was still a larger venue than the Antelopes are used to.
GCU coach Andy Stankiewicz said the experience will prove to be beneficial.
“I think any time you can get in front of a bunch of people playing against competition, it’s obviously really good,” he said. “I think it’ll help us develop in the future.
“You want to put them into an environment where the heart races a little bit more than usual and they learn how to control their heart rate and emotions and learn how to slow the game down.”
Stankiewicz said he wasn’t sure if his players knew what to expect from the scrimmage. The Antelopes have 20 Arizona natives on their roster, so many of them had been to Spring Training games. But that was in the stands, not on the field.
GCU just took two out of three at home from Oklahoma State, a 2016 College World Series team. The Antelopes faced a different talent level on Wednesday.
“The one thing you’ll notice is there’s a couple more home runs,” Bull said. “Some mistakes will get hit pretty far. In terms of just fielding a ground ball, that’s all the same. They’re a little bit bigger and stronger, but it’s still the same game.”
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