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LB in MLB: Local Ballplayers Begin New Season on the Diamond

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The 2022 Major League Baseball season finally got underway last weekend following the resolution of an offseason labor dispute. The 99-day lockout shortened the Spring Training schedule, and delayed player movement and contract negotiations right up until Opening Day.

Among the players signing contract extensions right at the start of the new season was former Lakewood Lancers shortstop J.P. Crawford, who penned a 5-year, $51 million extension with the Seattle Mariners. The deal was announced before Seattle’s season opener in Minnesota and comes with a $5 million signing bonus.

Crawford, 27, won a Gold Glove in 2020 and was a finalist for another in 2021, while also having the best offensive season of his career. He played in 160 games for the Mariners last year, setting career highs in most offensive categories with a .273 batting average, 89 runs scored, 169 hits, and 37 doubles. This extension will keep him in Seattle through the 2026 season, covering his remaining arbitration years and first two free agent seasons. 

The Mariners organization made clear that they envision Crawford as their shortstop of the future, and that’s just fine with him.

“I love Seattle,” Crawford told “I’ve loved it ever since I put on the jersey for the first time and really wanted to stay here ever since then. So, I’m really happy for this opportunity … I’m on cloud nine. Seriously, life can’t be better. Everything’s just falling into place, and the stars are aligning for us over here in Seattle. I can’t wait to get going.”

Crawford started all three games of Seattle’s series against the Twins, reaching base safely in six of his 11 plate appearances to help the Mariners win the series.


Another former Lakewood Lancer, Matt Duffy, is getting the chance to play close to home this season. He signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels on March 16, and just over three weeks later found himself batting cleanup for the Angels on Opening Day in Anaheim.

Duffy, 31, who is also a former Long Beach State Dirtbag, started at second base and recorded the first base hit of the season for the Halos, smacking a single in his first plate appearance with his new team. Duffy hit .389 during Spring Training, making a solid early impression on his new club.

Continuing the Lakewood theme, Travis d’Arnaud, 33, was the Opening Day catcher for the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves over the weekend. After an 0-for-4 in the opener, he collected 3 RBIs in game two and then launched his first home run of the season on Sunday to get off to a productive start at the plate.

Long Beach native Justin Turner was the starting DH for the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking advantage of the rule change this season in the National League. He was listed fourth on the Dodgers’ first lineup card, meaning the cleanup hitters for both Los Angeles teams on Opening Day were born in Long Beach.

Wilson alum Aaron Hicks was the starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees for the third season in a row–and fourth overall. He’ll be battling for playing time in a crowded Yankees lineup this season, but the 32-year-old remains a solid defensive outfielder.

There’s a relatively small crop of Dirtbags on Opening Day rosters this season with just four LBSU representatives. Duffy is joined by Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher Bryan Shaw, Colorado Rockies utilityman Garrett Hampson, and New York Mets 2B/OF Jeff McNeil.

McNeil got off to a roaring start to the season with a hit in each of his first four games for the Mets, hitting .438 after the opening weekend. The 2019 All-Star hit his first homer of the season last Friday, celebrating his 30th birthday with a three-hit game to help lead New York to a win.

Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, 36, missed the start of the season as he recovers from finger surgery, but the former Dirtbag hopes to be back on the field by the end of the month and, once healthy, should be a regular in the Giants’ lineup for his fifth season in San Francisco.

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.