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LB In MLB: Long Beach All-Star Streak Ends

The streak is dead, long live the streak.

Last year, Long Beach had a representative from one of its schools in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game for the 12th consecutive season. It doesn’t look like that streak will continue after the MLB fan vote was released over weekend.

Long Beach Poly alum Chase Utley started the streak in 2006, and LBSU Dirtbags product Jason Vargas extended it last year with his first All-Star selection. Utley, who has 1,098 hits in 15 years as a professional, is only hitting .220 in 54 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. Vargas, who is currently on the disabled list, has a 8.60 ERA in nine games with the New York Mets.

LBSU had an All-Star selection for 10 consecutive years with Vargas, Marco Estrada (2016), Jered Weaver (2010-2012), Evan Longoria (2008-2010) and Troy Tulowitzki (2010-11, 13-15).

There aren’t many Long Beach candidates who could be chosen to replace injured players by American League manager A.J. Hinch and National League manager David Roberts. Here are a couple.

Lakewood High alum and former Dirtbag Matt Duffy is having one of the most impressive comeback seasons in the league with the Tampa Bay Rays. Duffy missed all of last season following heel surgery, but is back at third base with a .306 batting average, which ranks ninth in the A.L.

Duffy was traded from San Fransisco two years ago after winning a World Series, hitting .295 and winning the Willie Mac Award as the Giants’ most inspirational player. He has once again been involved in trade rumors this year, but Duffy told MLB.com last week that he doesn’t let it get to him.

“I think it’s a distraction if you let it be,” Duffy said. “Basically you have two options. You can let it bother you, or you can come to the field every day [and] be a professional. Try and help the team win every day regardless of where you are or where people might think you’ll be going. You just have to focus on that day. Whatever happens, whether it’s moves or people getting called up, you can’t control that too much. You just have to play your game and be a professional.”

Aaron Hicks has made more history than any other player out of Long Beach this season. The Wilson High alum hit three home runs from either side of the plate two weekends ago during an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball win against the Boston Red Sox. The switch-hitting centerfielder joins Lou Gehrig (1927) and Mark Teixeira (2010) as the only Yankees to have a three-home run game against the Red Sox.

“It feels awesome to be able to be lucky enough to hit three home runs,” Hicks told MLB.com. “I blacked out after the third one. I kind of didn’t know what to do. It’s exciting. I was really excited after it went out.”

Hicks is the only Yankees leadoff hitter to ever hit three home runs in a game, and the 27th MLB player all-time to do so. He is also the first Yankee to hit three homers since Alex Rodriguez did it in 2015.

In May, Hicks used his speed to make more history. He hit his second inside-the-park home run of the year for the New York Yankees on the road at Kansas City. 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 an MLB player hit three in a season was 1987.

Hicks, 28, has 16 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .518 slugging percentage in 70 games for the Yankees this season. He is hitting .259 with an .876 on-base/slugging percentage. Hicks signed a one-year $2.8 million deal in the offseason.

A pair of former Dirtbag pitchers have been reliable out of the bullpen. Jared Hughes has pitched 48 innings for the Cincinnati Reds with a 1.50 ERA, six saves, eight holds and 38 strikeouts. Shane Carle has pitched 46 innings for the Atlanta Braves with a 2.74 ERA, 11 holds and 36 strikeouts.

On The Shelf

The disabled list is full of former Dirtbags including Evan Longoria with the San Fransisco Giants, Troy Tulowitzki with the Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada with the Blue Jays and Bryan Shaw with the Colorado Rockies. Lakewood’s Travis d’Arnaud is also on the DL for the Mets.

History

A total of 87 Major Leaguers have come from the Moore League — plus three from St. Anthony. Long Beach Poly has produced 25 MLB players, which is among the most in the country for any high school.

Dirtbags Count 49

Tonight, Drew Gagnon with become the 49th Dirtbags to play an MLB game. The 28-year-old righthander started for the New York Mets against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Gagnon was the 100th overall selection by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 MLB Draft after making 43 starts at LBSU, which ranks sixth in program history. He was a two-time All-Big West second team selection.

After signing a minor league contract with the Mets in December, Gagnon struck out 104 batters in 102.1 innings. His best start of the season came late last month when he pitched seven shutout innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts while allowing four hits and a walk.

The Dirtbags now have 11 former players on MLB rosters, and have had more former players in the league than any other college or university since 2010.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.
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