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Long Beach State: MLB’s No. 1 Feeder Program

April 24th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Long Beach

So says the sports media department at my alma mater, which currently is ranked No. 11 in the nation by the NCAA. That’s a pretty prominent spot for a program which often struggles to separate itself from the NCAA masses. In any sport.

By the calculations of the PR guys there, Long Beach State baseball had 13 of its former players in the Major Leagues at some point during the 2016 season. No other college had as many.

The school also claims to have led in that category since 2010 — seven consecutive seasons.

Which makes me a bit proud, as a former editor and sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Forty-Niner. Long Beach State was known as a basketball school, back then, both for men and women.

Oh, and the baseball team? Officially/unofficially goes by the name “Dirtbags”. Not the 49ers. The Dirtbags. Only Long Beach State sports team (to my knowledge) referred to as something other than 49ers.

Have an admission to make.

I really don’t like the Dirtbags nickname. Even after reading the explanation for it, which goes like this, from the team’s home page:

The nickname of Long Beach State baseball team refers to the program’s style of play and success against higher-profile programs. The moniker was first coined for coach [Dave] Snow’s first team in 1989 which was comprised of nearly all new players. Playing without a home field (LBCC, Cerritos JC and Blair Field), and practicing at a local all-dirt Pony Field, that team won its first 18 games and advanced to Long Beach State’s first College World Series appearance. Then-infield coach Dave Malpass would take his infielders to the all-dirt field for their rigorous workout. The infielders would return to the regular practice field after their sessions covered in dirt. Thus the name Dirtbags was born. The name resurfaced again in 1993 when the 12-12 Dirtbags rallied to win 34 of their next 41 games and finish three outs short of the national championship game. The Dirtbags were once again a fan favorite at the 1998 College World Series as the country received a lesson in Dirtbag baseball.

Hmm. All right, then.

And you are wondering about the 13 guys who played in the bigs in 2016?

Several are prominent. Troy Tulowitzky (SS, Blue Jays), Evan Longoria (3B, Rays), Jered Weaver (pitcher, Padres), Danny Espinosa (infielder, Angels), Bryan Shaw (reliever, Indians), Marco Estrada (pitcher, Jays). Even casual baseball fans will have heard of them.

The others: Jason Vargas (pitcher, Royals), Jared Hughes (reliever, Brewers), Nick Vincent (reliever, Mariners), Matt Duffy (infielder, Rays), Vance Worley (reliever, Orioles), Cesar Ramos (reliever, Phillies), Branden Pinder (reliever, Yankees).

To update, Duffy has not played yet in 2017. He is on the disabled list but is expected to be back next month. And the final three on the list (Worley, Ramos, Pinder) are still in organized ball but have not pitched in the majors in the 2017 season.

Still, that’s a lot of guys from one school for any given year.

Long Beach State claims no fewer than 46 of its baseball players have gone on to play in the majors, and here is a photo gallery of all of them.

Most prominent in that group is first baseman Jason Giambi, who hit 440 home runs with 2,010 hits in 20 MLB seasons, mostly with the Athletics and Yankees.

Also, Steve Trachsel threw a lot of innings as a starting pitcher, and Terrmel Sledge may be remembered, too, in part for his colorful name.

The current Dirtbags team includes a nephew-in-law of mine, Zak Baayoun, a freshman left-hander who has been used in relief so far.

As has been the case for most of its history, Long Beach State ball team will be looking to win an NCAA championship. It has been in the tournament four times, moving within three outs of reaching the final in the 1993 tournament.

The team is off to a 25-13 start, and if it retains its lofty ranking it is sure to make the playoffs.

Which would continue to make Long Beach State prominent, nationally, in at least one prominent NCAA sport.



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