Friday, February 20, 2009


Think of nine letters, two words and opening the season. Long Beach, nine letters, is the two words and Saturday night is the home opener. And for the first time in years, fans of Dirtbag baseball begin the season without seeing their team in the NCAA’s top 40 and, despite last year’s co-championship, is picked to finish fourth in the Big West.

“It is really different for us this year, with so many really good players leaving,” the recently contract-extended Mike Weathers told the overflow crowd at the Long Beach State Leadoff dinner. That was on Thursday. On Saturday his 2009 edition intra-squaded to a 6-6 tie on the scoreboard and a 2-2 tie in execution--hitting and running well but catching and throwing poorly.

This Saturday’s baseball game is part two of a LBSU double-header, a Bracket Buster basketball contest with mid-major power Wisconsin Green Bay at 2:30 p.m. in the Pyramid and then the dash to Blair for a 5 p.m. first pitch in baseball. Blankets and butane recommended.

Two of the baseball stars are Trojan junior shortstop Grant Green (.390, 9 HR) and Niner sophomore pre-season All American Jonathan Jones (.343, 6-8 stolen bases). As it was for Danny Espinosa last year, draft-eligible college kids like Green have to really concentrate to play the game in front of them and not the scouts, agents, fans and friends around the yard.

There is also some pressure on the head coaches, especially USC’s Chad Kreuter. The Trojans have missed the postseason five of the past six years while Weathers, a regular regional host, has had a number of close encounters of the Omaha kind but the last actual CWS visit was eleven years ago. Fortunately Mom’s, Dads, Aunts, Uncles and “Annies” (translated girl friends) just want to see junior in a uni and somewhere on the field. Let the Games Begin.

SPRING DUSTING--The filets, and the fillies and the 49er players also got the wit and wisdom of a T-Squared hero from the recent past, Troy Tulowitzki. His message (longer than the Gettysburg address but shorter than my tax return) ranged from T- Ball (“I loved it because you never struck out”) to memories of playing day and night and even under the family Christmas tree, ( “I think I might have taken an ornament out”). In college after practice there was some homemade midnight baseball games played against the wall behind Von’s across from his Atherton street apartment. “A homer was when you put the whiffle ball in a shopping cart.
After finishing second in the 2007 Rookie of the Year race, Tulo had that sophomore slump but this spring Colorado coaches plan to hit him in the two hole and are confident he can turn the franchise back on.

Back to Beach ball, the actual season opener of course is Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Dedeaux Field. Lots of audio to choose from and the Trojans will be happy to sell you the Friday and Sunday games via live video on Trojan TV All-Access.

Calendar Girls--Softball is back in San Diego this weekend playing games against Colorado, Boise State and U San Diego, tennis is at home on Friday to open BWC play with Northridge and visiting Fullerton on Saturday, and women’s hoops, on a rare two game win streak, hosts UC Riverside Friday night.

Last Add Dirtbags. As is the case early in every season, a good many of the 17 Niner pitchers on the roster will take the hill of thrills sometime this weekend but expect the big guns to be Jake Thompson, Adam Wilk, Manny McElroy and freshman Andrew Gagnon. The Niner trademark infield figures to shine with sophomore Devin Lohman moving to shortstop from second giving that spot to freshmen Derek Legg.—DR. DAN


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