From statistical anomalies to streaks ending, this month has been historic for Long Beach representatives in Major League Baseball.
Last week, Long Beach Poly’s Chase Utley and Long Beach State’s Mike Marjama announced their retirements. This week, Garrett Hampson and Jeff McNeil became the 50th and 51st former Dirtbags to be called up to The Show.
That makes three LBSU call ups this month after Drew Gagnon joined the New York Mets on July 10. McNeil is the 12th Dirtbag to play in the MLB this season, and LBSU has had more former players in the league than any other college or university since 2010.
McNeil also joined the Mets on Tuesday, and he delivered his first MLB hit, a clean single to center field, in the eighth inning of a 6-4 win over visiting San Diego. The utility infielder also drew a walk in a pinch-hit appearance today.
“It’s unbelievable,” McNeil told the Associated Press at his locker after his debut. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. To get a hit, it couldn’t have happened any batter. I’m really happy.”
McNeil, 26, has played second base, shortstop, third base, and left field in the minors this year. He has also played right field, center field and first base since playing second base for three years at LBSU.
“He has proven himself at every level and has displayed his versatility throughout his Dirtbag and his professional career,” Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley said. “This promotion is well-deserved and we are very proud of him.”
McNeil was on the 2011 Dirtbags team that included pros Gagnon, Matt Duffy, Mike Marjama, and Branden Pinder. He hit .348 as a junior and was named First Team All-Big West. He also had 16 doubles, a .398 OBP and 13 stolen bases.
After he was picked in the 12th Round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Mets, McNeil has been on ten different teams in six minor league seasons with New York. He has a career .311 batting average with 714 total bases in 426 games. McNeil was most recently with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s where he hit .368 with a .427 on-base percentage, and this year he has compiled 72 runs, 26 doubles, 19 home runs, 71 RBIs and six stolen bases in 88 games.
“I was definitely anticipating it,” McNeil said. “I’ve had a pretty good year, and I’m swinging the bat well. I knew if I kept putting together good at bats I’d eventually get the call.”
Hampson, 23, made his MLB debut on Saturday at second base for the Colorado Rockies. He got his first hit and RBI with a double off of the wall in a 6-5 win at Arizona. Hampson also had a few nice defensive plays in his first few games.
“I had a feeling I was close to being ready,” Hampson told the Denver Post. “My approach at the plate has been more consistent, and I have a better feeling about what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m not just swinging or going up there without a plan. I think I’ve evolved into more of a student of the game and I think that has helped me a lot.”
Hampson started 2018 at Double-A, and then moved up to hit .306 in 53 games with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. He had 18 doubles, six triples, eight home runs, 68 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 91 games with the Rockies organization this year.
“We are so excited for Garrett and his family and friends,” Dirtbags head coach Troy Buckley said in an official release. “He epitomizes a Dirtbag and has so many people that respect and root for him because of how he’s always done things. This is special because of the man that Garrett is.”
Hampson was picked by the Rockies in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft with the 81st overall selection. He has played shortstop, center field, and second base for the Rockies organization, and is filling in for injured All-Star second baseman DJ LeMehieu, who could miss a month with an oblique strain.
“You are going to see his speed element and a high-energy player,” Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black told the Denver Post of Hampson during spring training. “He’s going to give us some good, quality at-bats and he’s confident in his approach at the plate. He’s a solid defender and has good range. He has (the) stolen base in his game and he can hit the ball into the gap, and he’s got a little bit of pop in his bat.”
Hampson was drafted in the 26th Round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals out of Reno High, but decided to attend LBSU. The Dirtbags made the NCAA Regional in two of Hampson’s three seasons at shortstop, and he was the 2014 Big West Freshman of the Year and the 2016 Big West Defensive Player of the Year. Hampson ranks seventh in LBSU program history with 213 career hits, and is one of 12 players with more than 200 hits. He is also third all-time with 50 stolen bases, and a .303 career hitter at LBSU.