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Baseball Long Beach State

Community Support Strong At New Dirtbags Coach TJ Bruce’s Introductory Press Conference

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Before Friday’s introductory press conference on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field new Long Beach State Dirtbags coach TJ Bruce said he wanted it to feel like, “A backyard BBQ.”

“That’s what I remember Long Beach being,” he added. “Having this community support, this is why it’s Long Beach.”

Bruce got his wish as a strong contingent of Dirtbags fans came out to welcome the local boy home. He played his youth baseball at Lakewood Village, played some of his college baseball at Long Beach State and started his coaching career with the Dirtbags.

“TJ is a product of his environment and this community,” LBSU Athletic Director Bobby Smitheran said. “He understands how unique and special this community is. I think he wants to do something that’s authentic that this community can rally behind. That was a key part of the hire for me, somebody that can connect with our fans and this community and I think that he’s done a phenomenal job on day one of doing that.”

Long Beach Police and Fire Departments came by to show their support, Legends Bar & Grill provided the food, and the seats behind home plate were filled with former Dirtbags coaches, players and dignitaries. A dozen current players were also on hand to show support for their third coach in three years.

“Today’s turnout says a lot about Dirtbags baseball and the excitement surrounding one of our very own taking the reins of this program,” Smitheran said.

“Long Beach State has always been home, it’s always had a piece of my heart, and it’s been my dream job ever since I started coaching in 2005,” Bruce said when he took the podium after being introduced by Smitheran. “Being a Dirtbag is a special honor. It’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself. This is more than a job for me. This is about the city of Long Beach.”

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Bruce started his 15-minute speech with a list of thanks for the people who helped him along the way. He gave special recognition to former teammates on hand including Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas. Bruce was visibly emotional when thanking former coach Mike Weathers. It was Weathers who recruited Bruce to transfer from Texas Tech to LBSU in 2003, and gave him his first coaching job. Bruce wiped the tears enough for a joke.

“I came in and hit a glaring .187 for coach Weathers, so, coach, it’s safe to say you will not be the recruiting coordinator for me,” Bruce said.

Bruce was an LBSU assistant coach from 2007-11 before taking the job as top assistant at UCLA where he worked for five years and helped the Bruins win a National Championship in 2013.

His first head coaching job came at Nevada, where he compiled a 171-168 record over seven seasons. He was a two-time Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, and led the Wolf Pack to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021.

For the past two seasons, Bruce has been the Associate Head Coach at TCU, working under head coach Kirk Saarloos.

The562.org on X (formerly Twitter): “The @LBDirtbags introduced TJ Bruce as their new head coach this afternoon on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. pic.twitter.com/n0z0qQMMKX / X”

The @LBDirtbags introduced TJ Bruce as their new head coach this afternoon on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. pic.twitter.com/n0z0qQMMKX

Some of his former coaching colleagues from around the nation were part of a congratulatory video presentation that played before Bruce was introduced. It included LSU’s Jay Johnson and former Dirtbags Evan Longoria and Danny Espinosa.

Bruce, a Torrance native, played shortstop at St. John Bosco High School and Cerritos College before attending Texas Tech. He played at LBSU in 2004 when the Dirtbags hosted a Super Regional, finishing just one win shy of the College World Series.

Bruce is the ninth head coach in Dirtbags history. He takes over for interim head coach Bryan Peters, who led LBSU to a 25-29-1 record in 2024.

“To get back to where we belong atop the Big West, hosting super regionals and getting back to Omaha competing for national championships, it’s going to take getting back to our roots,” Bruce said. “Culture is everything. Long Beach culture means living and competing with discipline and consistency of behavior. Leadership breeds culture, culture breeds behavior, behavior breeds results. Long Beach State baseball is a winning lifestyle. And you spell fun W-I-N.”

PHOTOS: Long Beach State Dirtbags Welcome New Coach TJ Bruce
PODCAST: New Long Beach State Dirtbags Coach TJ Bruce Talks About Coming Home
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.