Posted: 12/21/2012 8:45 AM
The Long Beach State 49ers Baseball team is the college baseball program that represents California State University, Long Beach. Unlike all other Long Beach State sports teams, since 1989 the baseball team has unofficially gone by the name The Dirtbags.
Long Beach State has competed in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference (BWC, formerly the PCAA) since 1970. Before becoming a founding member of the BWC, LBSU participated in the Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) from 1957–1969, and before that spent three years as an independent team.
The Long Beach State baseball team gained national prominence in 1989, with the hiring of Dave Snow as head coach. Since then The Dirtbags have been, historically, one of the strongest teams on the West Coast, being consistently ranked in the national top 25 and appearing in 17 of 20 NCAA tournaments through 2008.
The Dirtbags currently play their home games at Blair Field, a semi-professional baseball facility located less than 2 miles from campus and operated by the city of Long Beach.
Becoming a national baseball powerhouse
Under new coach Dave Snow, Long Beach State exploded onto the college baseball scene in 1989, winning their first 18 games right out of the starting gate. Just one year removed from their embarrassing 14-45 flop of a season, the reborn 49ers performed an almost unbelievable turnaround by posting an impressive 50-15 overall record and winning their first conference title in two decades. In their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the "Dirtbags" quickly became fan favorites for their gritty and spirited character as they fought their way to a Regional victory and reached the College World Series, another school first. Though they failed to win a game in the Series, the Dirtbags' improbable run earned Snow NCAA Coach of the Year honors.
The team suffered a mild regression in 1990, slipping to 4th in the conference and missing the postseason. But the following year Snow and the Dirtbags hit their stride, and set about proving that they were not a one-hit wonder. In 1991 Snow led his team to a very respectable 46-19 record, good for a 2nd-place finish in the conference and an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. In just the second postseason appearance in school history, the team again won their regional and advanced to their second College World Series, this time reaching the 2nd round before being eliminated. From 1992-'94 the Dirtbags elevated their game even further by winning 3 consecutive Big West titles and reaching the College World Series yet again in '93, making it 3 CWS berths in 5 years.
In fact, 1993 was arguably the Dirtbags' finest season (perhaps even more so than the iconic 1989 season), as the Dirtbags advanced farther in a postseason than ever before: a mere 3 outs from a berth in the National Championship Game. After capturing the Big West Title and earning a top 10 ranking in all the major polls, the Dirtbags swept through their regional with four straight wins. In the College World Series, the Dirtbags eliminated Kansas and Texas A&M en route to a semifinal matchup with the LSU Tigers. LBSU and LSU each held one victory going into the rubber match of the series, and the Dirtbags played their way to a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. But the Tigers used their final at-bats to mount a dramatic 3-run rally, eliminating the Dirtbags in heartbreaking fashion. The Tigers went on to dominate the National Championship Game, beating Wichita State 8-0 for their second national title.Dirtbags in the new century:
Dave Snow’s powerful legacy remained with the Dirtbags program even after his retirement. Immediately after Snow’s departure, LBSU athletic director Bill Shumard confirmed that Snow’s longtime assistant Mike Weathers would take over as head coach. Weathers, who had known Snow since the pair’s playing days at Cerritos College in the late ‘60s, had previously served as head coach at Utah and Chapman College before spending the last 9 seasons working under Snow at LBSU. Having served as associate head coach the year before, the veteran Weathers sought to utilize his vast coaching experience to maintain the level of success that Snow had established before him.
Weathers did not disappoint. In his first year after taking the reins from Snow, the Dirtbags didn’t skip a beat as they cruised to a 39-21 overall record and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. This turned out to be the first of an impressive 7-year run for the team, where from 2002-'08 the Dirtbags never finished worse than 2nd in the conference and only once ended with fewer than 37 wins. 6 of those 7 seasons also saw the Dirtbags earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps most impressive about Weather’s tenure was the amount of major league talent produced by him and his coaching staff. Despite the fact that LBSU by now commanded a respectable baseball reputation, the limited budget afforded to the state-funded school often forced the Dirtbags staff to focus on recruiting and developing prospects that were overlooked by other schools. One such case was Jered Weaver, who was dismissed by many scouts on the belief that he was more cut out for basketball than baseball. But Weaver went on to have a fine career as a Dirtbag, and his 2004 junior season became the most decorated for a single player in school history, netting him his second consecutive first team All-America selection while also winning (among other honors) the Dick Howser Trophy, the Roger Clemens Award, and the Golden Spikes Award.An even more dramatic example of prospect development was Evan Longoria, who (being widely regarded as too scrawny to compete for a Division 1 program) received no scholarship offers at all out of high school. Undeterred, Longoria enrolled at Rio Hondo Community College and played for one season, after which he was finally offered a scholarship at Long Beach State. Longoria would spend the next two seasons as the starting third baseman for the Dirtbags, and by the end of his junior year at LBSU, diligent hard work and expert instruction had transformed him into an imposing physical specimen who was described by various media outlets as the "top position player" and "best pure hitter" available in the 2006 draftThat year Longoria became the highest-drafted player in school history (3rd overall), which also marked the third straight year that Long Beach State had a player selected in the first round of the draft (Weaver went 12th in 2004, and Troy Tulowitzki 7th in 2005).__________________________________________________ __________________So what's the old saying....these guys will proudly say "Once a Dirtbag, always a Dirtbag." They are a scrappy group and shouldn't be underestimated. They will be able to practice outdoors from January forward comfortably where we will may have some days where it's impossible to get out. Having the turf field will greatly reduce the likelihood of practices cancelled due to bad weather though . A snowstorm or ice storm will force our kids inside, in SoCal, the worst weather they'll get is a windstorm and maybe a little rain (but that area is essentially a desert that's well irrigated). I used to tell my Dad "The only rain we see here comes out of the ground and I can turn it off anytime I want." To be fair, it does rain occassionaly in SoCal in Janary. Nevertheless, they shouldn't be underestimated. Having good weather year-around there in SoCal means that these guys have been playing through winters since they were little kids and that means a lot of extra at bats, chances to work on extra pitches and to hit corners reliably. There's a lot of great former players living in SoCal because of the weather and many of them help with youth programs too so they are often well-coached. I think we have a better team and will do well, but don't want us to get overconfident.
Last edited 12/21/2012 5:41 PM by FRGVandy81
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