Bohl Diamond at Blair Field has a longstanding reputation as a pitcher’s ballpark. From its spacious outfield dimensions to the home run-suppressing marine layer that’s known to creep over the playing field after sundown, it’s long been recognized as a place where pitchers have the edge.
It’s now been five years since the new outfield fence was erected, reducing the overall size of the ballpark and providing some respite to disadvantaged hitters. However, Long Beach State’s most recent upgrade to the facility should be another resounding win for pitchers, with the construction of the new Steve Trachsel Bullpen nearing completion along the left field line.
The new bullpen will feature three resurfaced pitching mounds–two conventional dirt mounds and one synthetic turf mound. The catchers area will use all synthetic turf, and will double as a bunting practice area with foul lines included. But perhaps the biggest investment in the bullpen will be in its technological enhancements. LBSU is adding a brand new camera system called BATS, which should provide a competitive advantage in player development.
“It’s a system that is very detail-oriented with multiple camera views, slo-mo, you can really do so much with this system,” said Long Beach State Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela, who is set to begin his second season as head coach. “It’s a game changer for us.”
According to LBSU Athletic Director Andy Fee, the bullpen renovations, including the upgraded camera technology, will carry a total cost just north of $200,000, and is on the verge of completion. The athletic department is hosting a virtual presentation on Friday, February 12 to unveil the completed bullpen. The project represents a continued investment in one of the most successful teams on campus–both recently and historically–and plays right into the program’s core competency under Valenzuela’s leadership.
“Coach Valenzuela is what I would call a pitching guru,” Fee said. “He knows what he needs, and what we want to do with this project in the left field bullpen is to create a modern, scientific bullpen. Meaning that it has the video technology that will allow coaches to sit down with pitchers and really break down the biomechanics of their pitching.”
The project was funded through contributions from longtime donor Marilyn Bohl as well as former Dirtbags pitcher Steve Trachsel, whose name will adorn the new bullpen area. Trachsel was a member of Long Beach State’s 1991 College World Series team, and went on to a 16-year major league career that included an All-Star Game appearance in 1996 with the Chicago Cubs.
Valenzuela said the new cameras will be 4K, high definition, “MLB-style” cameras, and will be located all around Bohl Diamond, including in the batting facility and the bullpens. The coaching staff will also have the ability to adjust the cameras located around the main diamond, to capture footage from all four angles of hitters and pitchers during games. That amount of footage, mixed with the ability to conduct biomechanical analysis for pitchers and their movements, brings the Dirtbags program to the cutting edge of the sport.
“Pitchers nowadays, whether in high school or junior college, a lot of these guys have been raised on this technology,” Valenzuela explained. “Some of us old-school guys, we take pride in what we’ve done, but we’ve had to upgrade what we do because of this technology. You want to be able to provide as much information as possible for these guys, but also keep them grounded and keep them a little old school. I think that’s what our advantage is when we get into recruiting battles. We have this technology, and we can offer you the best of both worlds. You’re going to have that old school mentality and that competitiveness to match.”
Recruiting is certainly a major factor in the continued upgrades to Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, especially as Big West rivals like Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and others make major investments in their baseball facilities.
“It’s an arms race out there. We’re competing and recruiting against other programs who are also enhancing their facilities,” Fee admitted. “It’s very important for the Dirtbags program to continue to enhance and provide those resources to get the very best athletes who are going to succeed on the diamond and in the classroom.”
Fee said that the plans to upgrade Bohl Diamond at Blair Field will continue in the years ahead. The gradual overhaul of the ballpark started with the new fence in 2016, and has included the addition of the Troy & Danyll Tulowitzki Batting Facility, the Jered Weaver Bullpen beyond the right field fence, upgrades to the home locker room, and protective netting along the grandstands to protect spectators. Fee said he hopes to release an updated master plan for the facility either in the spring or summer, to outline what additional upgrades the ballpark will receive.
“In order to get the very best, we have to keep pushing,” he said. “Baseball in our community is a big deal. That’s the advantage that we have is we get huge crowds at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. In order to continue building what we think will get us back to Omaha and achieve our ultimate goal of competing for and winning a national championship in baseball, we’ve got to get the right people and have the right facilities. Those things go hand in hand.”
Valenzuela said that once the bullpen is completed, it will be the new home bullpen for the Dirtbags, who will no longer need to jog to the opposite corner of the ballpark. Also, the existing picnic area between the bullpen and home dugout will remain intact and available for fans to enjoy during games.
Of course, any upgrade to the facility impacts more than just the Dirtbags. While the advanced technology will be reserved for Long Beach State’s athletes, Moore League baseball players will benefit from using the new bullpen during high school games.
“We hope that everybody benefits from it,” Fee said. “That’s the great part about Bohl Diamond. When we invest in it, it’s not just the Dirtbags. Certainly for us we want it to be fantastic, but also for the entire community. An investment in the Dirtbags is an investment in youth baseball in the city of Long Beach. We want the best that grow up here to stay here and play for the Dirtbags, so we think it’s a win-win for our entire community.”