Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Sometime after 6 p.m. Friday Mike Weathers, head coach and now landlord of Long Beach State baseball will stroll to his Blair Field home plate to meet with the umpires and Pepperdine skipper Steve Rodriguez. The usual business is going over ground rules, locating fair and foul territory and of course, putting on your game face. Thirty minutes later Mike will focus on what’s going on inside the chalk lines, not the expected profit center outside the stands in the food and beverage lines.

In these chaotic financial times the toy department of a University has to be creative and the powers at budget-crunched LBSU opted to take over the contract for running the venerable 54 year old off-campus baseball stadium from dugouts to drinking and dining.

As a Lynwood kid Weathers was six years old in 1956 when the stadium (wisely named for a sports writer) opened with a graceful design featuring excellent, and even shady, viewing, pitcher friendly wide open spaces and room for upwards to 3,238 seated fans. Nervous parents, strolling scouts and cheap skates beyond the outfield wall often push the crowd count even higher.

This opening weekend will feature a first pitch from major league alum Troy Tulowitzki and then contests against three familiar faces, Pepperdine, 31-23 last season, baseball newcomer Oregon, 14-42 under old pal George Horton Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and then a Sunday afternoon jaunt behind the Orange Curtain to Fullerton, 47-16.
The homeboys have work to do after a 25-29 effort in 2009 but the Dirtbags do return 15 lettermen and seven starters from last year's team and 80% of the team's offensive production. And, perhaps most important, defensive help in the form of pitching guru Troy Buckley who’s back after a coaching stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Both the Beach and the Waves defeated their respective alumni in scrimmages but the temperature now goes up for both sides. Newcomers will be featured, the Waves offering up a talented left-handed pitcher Jordan Luvisi and LBSU a promising right-handed slugging transfer from Miami, Joey Terdoslavich. Let the games begin.
PICK UP DUST—Mixed messages out of the LBSU basketball world, but both sides of the gender divide still have legit hopes for making the top four and that first round Big West tournament bye. The Niner women are pumped after their first season sweep over UCSB since 1990-91. Jody Wynn’s secret weapon is a revival of the old Jerry Tarkanian “mosquito defense” which forced the defending champ Gauchos into 22 turnovers.

Dan Monson’s bunch have balance (three players in double figures Saturday night) and now head to Moscow, Idaho for a Saturday contest with the Vandals, tough road visits to Davis and Stockton and a lot of scoreboard watching along the way. Tennis upset San Diego State last weekend, visits Riverside this Friday and hosts UC Irvine Saturday at 11 a.m. Men’s volleyball is at home to play Cal Baptist tonight (Thursday) and Kim Sowder’s softball team, 2-2 last weekend in Las Vegas, goes back to Glitter Gulch this weekend for five games including tests with Georgia Tech and Oklahoma.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Diamond Dust already in progress. Weekend pitching rotation is just a guess but it is likely that the Beach will turn to Jake Thompson and Andrew Gagnon. The most depth is in the outfield where returnees TJ Mittelstaedt, Jordan Casas, and Jonathan Jones sparkle but veterans throughout the infield should put the Dirtbag express back on track. Where are they now…one of the better LBSU broadcast voices will be calling the action for New Mexico, where our pal Wayne Smith is now employed…calling Lobo home games in football and men’s basketball will be Scott Galetti who did baseball for Long Beach State and the High Desert Mavericks, the single-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners…more Bag info, Jake Thompson enters his third season in the rotation while Gagnon comes into his second, and both will be relied to repeat the innings they tallied last season while anchoring the rotation…The date was Sept 24, 1989 vs. Fresno State and Long Beach lost starting quarterback Paul Oates late in the first half with a knee injury. Freshman Bill Grudza came on in the second half and led Long Beach with 48 yards rushing and today, as Bill Brady, he is the new head of athletic development for LBSU…trying to guess a Saturday starter for Oregon you might try senior righty Justin LaTempa a “hard thrower with a fastball that gets into the mid 90’s when healthy, which has been an issue. He has had an interesting journey thru college, starting out in 2006 pitching at Irvine before transferring to Golden West College, undergoing arm surgery and ending up at Oregon. He has a chance to be drafted in the first 10 rounds with a good SR season…the rest of the Ducks are not so good, last year they put up these numbers, Batting Average – .227 (NCAA ranking – 287 out of 288); Runs Per Game – 2.8 (288); Home Runs – 16 (280); Stolen Bases – 60 (132) but old #8 wit the pencil behind his ear does like small ball like HBP’s – 45 and Sac Bunts – 49 (26)…D 49er writer Daniel Ramirez has Buck on the Niner starters Thompson and Gagnon… “Those two guys have as good of stuff as anybody in the country, but what they haven’t learned how to do yet is perform and win,” Buckley said. “That’s a step that they’re going to have to take and that they’re going to have to understand mentally, emotionally, mechanically, but they’re going to have to go out and experience [winning].” Thompson had a 5.61 ERA behind a 4-7 record and 42 strikeouts a year ago. Similarly, his teammate Gagnon went 3-7 with 44 strikeouts and a 6.32 ERA…Weathers said that sophomore Branden Pinder likely will throw on Sunday, rounding out the weekend starters…best athlete on campus these days is lady hooper Kristina Figueroa who last weekend averaged 25.0 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. She shot 50.0 percent from the field and posted an even more impressive 66.7 percent clip from beyond the arc…on Saturday at Millikan’s Baseball Opening Day, critically ill Dallas Humphreys (via Jake Thompson’s mom Diane) will have a Match the Marrow event registering bone marrow donors, and Long Beach Memorial will have a blood bank as well. All blood donated to Memorial will help the Humphreys family offset their care cost at the hospital. Show up any time between 9am and 3pm…see you at the yard—DR. DAN


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