More than 15 Major League Baseball players have ties to Long Beach, so there have been plenty of headlines this season that have featured local boys.
Long Beach State Dirtbags and St. John Bosco High product Evan Longoria collected his 1,500th career hit earlier this month. The San Fransisco Giants third baseman was traded from Tampa Bay during the offseason, and is in his 10th year.
“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been playing that long and just have been lucky enough to be healthy and be out there and get some hits,” Longoria told MLB.com.
Longoria, 32, has had a lower offensive output since moving to the National League. His batting average and slugging percentage have suffered while he adjusts to seeing new pitchers. However, this week Longoria is still ranked as the No. 10 third baseman in the league, according to ESPN Fantasy Baseball.
Wilson High alum Aaron Hicks used his speed to hit his second inside-the-park home run for the New York Yankees on the road at Kansas City on May 19. The first one was at Detroit in April, and Hicks is the first Yankee to hit multiple inside-the-park homers in a single season since Mickey Mantle hit three in 1958. The last time a MLB player hit three in a season was 1987.
Lakewood High alum J.P. Crawford took another step towards returning to the Philadelphia Phillies lineup this week by starting a minor-league rehab assignment with High-A Clearwater. Crawford has been on the disabled list since April with a right forearm strain. The shortstop made his MLB debut last year, and started this season on the senior circuit. Crawford, 23, is batting just .188 in 21 games with five errors, the most among National League shortstops. He was the 16th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Another shortstop with local ties isn’t as close to returning to the infield. Former Dirtbag Troy Tulowitzki had surgery for bone spurs in both feet last month, and was cleared by doctors to run on flat ground over the weekend. The five-time All-Star has been on the disabled list since July, and Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tulowitzki still is a ways away from returning to action.
“Good things happen when he’s out there with this team,” Gibbons told Associated Press reporters last Friday. “Hopefully he’s still mobile. We’ll find out.”
In other injury news for former Dirtbags, Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Nick Vincent was placed on the 10-day disabled list on May 28 with strained right groin. Vincent, 31, is fifth in the American League with 10 holds in 25 appearances, and won two games last month.
Marco Estrada is having a tough season with the Toronto Blue Jays. The former Dirtbag pitcher lost his fourth consecutive game to the Angels last week, and only struck out one batter. That is the fewest Estrada has had in a start since June 2015. His 5.40 ERA is the eighth worst among qualified starters. However, Estrada hasn’t lost his competitive fire in his 10th year.
“I couldn’t imagine somebody being complacent with losing,” Estrada told the Toronto Sun. “If you are, then I don’t want you on my team.”
Struggling In Spotlight
Jason Vargas won 18 games last season with the Kansas City Royals, and made his first All-Star Game in his 11th year. The former Dirtbag left-hander signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Mets in the offseason, but has been struggling ever since. Vargas, 35, returned from a broken hand to post a 10.62 ERA in five appearances this year.
“Over the course of time you learn how to deal with failure and success,” Vargas told the New York Daily News. “You have to come to work every day and be ready to do your job — regardless of what is going on, what’s happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future.”
Long Beach Poly High alum Chase Utley is a veteran presence and leader for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even Dodgers shortstop Kike Hernandez, 26, thanked Utley, 39, and called him ‘dad’ after Hernandez hit a home run against the Washington Nationals last month.
“After my first at-bat my dad Chase told me to use his bat, and I did, and first pitch I hit a homer,” Hernandez told SportsNet LA. “It’s dad’s bat.”