This won’t come as a surprise to sports fans who’ve been following Long Beach sports for any amount of time, but MaxPreps.com bestowed a major honor on Long Beach Poly last week. The national high school sports website named the city’s oldest high school as America’s top producer of professional athletes by a wide margin, counting up NFL, MLB, and NBA alums from every school in the country.
Poly was No. 1 in the nation with a total of 86 NFL/MLB/NBAers, according to MaxPreps, which lists Poly with 58 pro football players, 20 Major Leaguers, and eight players in the NBA. The article doesn’t list who’s recognized so it’s hard to correct the record officially, but it’s worth noting that the school has actually produced over 70 NFL players and exactly 23 MLB players, most of any school in the country.
“We appreciate the recognition, it’s a testament to the legacy and tradition at Long Beach Poly,” said boys’ athletic director Rob Shock. “It’s just Long Beach–this is the image we all grew up with in this city. Poly has always had great athletes and great individuals coming out of the school, that’s just acknowledged, everyone knows it.”
Perhaps just as impressive as the inner-city public powerhouse’s spot at the top of the list is looking at who’s just below them. The other schools in the top five are all private schools, and none of them are close. Behind Poly’s 86 is Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia with 74, and no other school has more than 50. DeMatha (Maryland) and Hargrave Military Academy (Virginia) are tied for third at 49.
There’s a three-way tie at fifth place, including Poly’s Moore League rival Compton High which has 47 alums–23 NFL, 17 MLB, and seven in the NBA. The dropoff after that is steep, but it’s worth noting that in Poly and Compton, Long Beach’s Moore League boasts America’s two top public school producers of professional athletes, an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Shock pointed out that there was a gender bias in the list, which counts only the three major male professional sports leagues. Poly has recently produced a WNBA player as well as other groundbreaking women professional athletes throughout history, including Billie Jean King.
“Our girls have been more dominant than the boys recently,” said Shock. “Basketball, track and field, volleyball, soccer–teams producing high level athletes year in and year out. The only thing I don’t like about this is that our girls aren’t counted in it because so many of them have to go play internationally to be professionals. We’ve got boys and girls getting college scholarships in all those sports regularly.”
With a dozen Division 1 college football players out of Poly and a high school basketball star in Peyton Watson, the Jackrabbits look like they’ll continue their tradition going forward, too. Shock said it’s something athletes at the school are aware of and take pride in.
“I think from the outside, it’s unthinkable to have so many pro athletes from one school,” he said. “Coming from Long Beach, it’s born and bred–it’s been passed down from generation to generation. Some of our top kids now are second or third generation Poly students, and some of those pros are as well. We have the success because it’s been passed down.”