Despite being a smaller group than in recent years, Major League Baseball players with ties to Long Beach have already made a wide variety of headlines on MLB.com during this truncated regular season.
Lakewood High alum J.P. Crawford, 25, is having a breakout year with the Seattle Mariners, and the shortstop was the subject of an MLB.com feature article earlier this month.
“J.P. wants to be in the batter’s box, he wants the ball hit to him, he wants the ball in his hands,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told MLB.com’s Greg Johns. “He’s like the point guard of our defense. He’s been really good here early in the season.”
Crawford reworked his swing during the COVID-19 shutdown and has 24 hits in 28 games played. His .972 fielding percentage is No. 8 in MLB for shortstops with at least 25 games played. Crawford has also made a few highlight plays on defense that went viral online.
“J.P. always has my back,” Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi told MLB.com through translator Kevin Ando. “He always makes big plays behind me and we have this great atmosphere because of those plays. I just think it’s really great.”
Long Beach State Dirtbags product Garrett Hampson also was the subject of an MLB.com feature this month. Hampson, 25, had always incorporated a leg kick into his swing, but stopped doing it late last season. The results have been fantastic and Hampson is a regular at the top of the Colorado Rockies lineup.
Hampson has taken 51 of his 74 at bats from the leadoff spot where he’s hitting .275 with nine runs scored and four extra base hits. He also has a .709 OPS (on base plus slugging) percentage.
“Before last year, I never really had to think about my swing or my hitting mechanics, because the numbers were there, the stats were there,” Hampson told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. “It was something that I never really paid close attention until last year. When I hit some struggles, I had to sit down and watch some video or do some research. I’m glad it happened, because it’s helped me for the better.”
Hampson was also listed as the Rockies fastest player by MLB.com earlier this season. The utility infielder/outfielder is the fourth fastest player in MLB with a sprint speed of 30.1 feet per second.
Wilson High alum Aaron Hicks got his own highlight clip featured on MLB.com this month when he robbed Lakewood High alum Travis d’Arnaud of a home run in New York. It was the top of the first inning, and Atlanta Braves catcher d’Arnaud sent a high fly ball towards the wall. New York Yankees centerfielder Hicks, 30, got to the warning track quickly enough to time his leap and catch the ball before hitting the wall.
Like Hampson, Hicks has used walks to get on base consistently. He has a .787 on base percentage. After signing a two-year $16 million deal in November, d’Arnaud, 31, has proven to be a bargain behind the plate. He has 22 hits, 17 RBIs and four home runs in 17 games played.
Long Beach State Dirtbags product Evan Longoria hit the 300th home run of his career this month, but went viral on social media because he wasn’t the Longoria they were looking for.
Last week during the Democratic National Convention, a reporter from Atlanta took a picture of actress Eva Longoria speaking on the CNN broadcast. The reporter tweeted, “The fantastic @Evan3Longoria opens the #DemocraticConvention with a succinct slam against the current administration… “America is better than this.”
The problem is that @Evan3Longoria is the baseball player Evan Longoria Twitter handle. Longoria simply retweeted it saying, “Not me” and he got over 30,000 likes.
Longoria, 34, became the 150th MLB player to hit 300 home runs last weekend when he helped the San Fransisco Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks. The third baseman was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008, and is still producing with a .262 batting average, 14 RBIs and a .301 on base percentage.
*Statistics thru Aug. 23