Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Troy Tulowitzki remembers the last time he was eligible for the baseball draft. He waited and waited, but no one called.
There will be no such letdown this time.
Tulowitzki, a former Fremont High standout who has become a blue-chip shortstop at Long Beach State, could be one of the top five picks in the baseball draft next month. MLB.com projected him to go third, to Seattle.
"He has endless potential,'' said A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, a former Long Beach State star who talks with Tulowitzki several times a month. "He's the same type of guy I was in college. He came into Long Beach a little raw, but you could tell he had a great work ethic.''
Tulowitzki arrived at Long Beach State in 2002, one year after the A's drafted Crosby in the first round, and he soon began drawing comparisons to his predecessor.
"Troy as a junior is a little stronger than Bobby was, physically,'' Long Beach Coach Mike Weathers said. "But other than that, they're very, very similar -- their range, their arm strength, their fielding, their passion for the game, their knowledge of how to play.''
As a freshman in 2003, Tulowitzki led Long Beach with 44 RBIs. As a sophomore, he drove in 44 runs and was named to the Big West's first team. This season, he has a team-leading seven home runs, plus 25 RBIs, though he was sidelined for 20 games because of a broken hand.
The injury occurred two weeks into the season and required surgery. Naturally, Tulowitzki wondered if he had crushed his draft chances.
But by then, he was already a belt-high fastball on everyone's radar.
Long Beach State began its season a week earlier than most teams, at tradition-rich Arizona State. With a large gathering of pro scouts looking on, Tulowitzki went 7 for 14 in the three-game series.
"Everybody flooded into Tempe, and Troy just went off,'' Weathers said. "He had a great weekend and set the tone for his draft year.''
Since his return from injury 30 games ago, Tulowitzki, who is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, is hitting .328 and has a .603 slugging percentage.
"Every once in a while I'll get some shooting pains through there, and my fingers are a little numb still,'' he said. "But it doesn't affect me batting or in the field.''
Few things have affected Tulowitzki. A standout pitcher at Fremont High, he didn't allow arm trouble his senior year to derail his future. He simply spent more time playing infield and hitting.
When he flew under the draft radar out of high school, in part because he played for a low-profile program, he turned his attention to college.
"For not getting drafted, he probably had about eight to 10 colleges that wanted him,'' recalled his dad, Ken. "I've always thought, and a lot of parents probably think this about their own child, but I've always thought he's been one of the better ones on his team.''
Weathers calls it a fluke that Tulowitzki did not get drafted three years ago.
Tulowitzki took over Long Beach State's shortstop role full-time five weeks into his freshman season, bumping Tim Hutting (now in the Giants system) to second base.
"He's been a good one, boy, and he's going to be a very, very good professional,'' Weathers said.
Tulowitzki played two sports in high school, leading Fremont's basketball team to the Northern California semifinals his senior season. After that run, he rejoined the baseball team and took his customary spot atop the mound. But he tried to do too much, too soon.
"I just started throwing my hardest, and that's when I got hurt,'' said Tulowitzki, who was 15-1 as a junior. "Right then, I said, 'I don't want to mess with this.' ''
It worked out in the end. Tulowitzki signed with Long Beach State, which wanted him as an infielder, and has become friends with the player who knows exactly what he is going through.
Crosby met Tulowitzki while working out at Long Beach State.
"He's a good kid, and I like the way he goes about his business,'' Crosby said. "He's not cocky. He's confident in himself, and he knows his capabilities.''
Tulowitzki describes Crosby as an "awesome mentor,'' noting that last year's American League rookie of the year has told him what to expect in the minor leagues.
"The first thing he said is that being a high draft pick, you're going to get ragged on a little bit by some of the older guys,'' Tulowitzki said. "They'll call you 'Franchise' and 'Bonus Baby' because you have the money. But he says the best thing to do is go along with it.''
Tulowitzki will find out for himself this summer. First, though, he hopes to lead Long Beach State to its fifth College World Series title.
"The most important thing for me right now is to stick with my teammates and go as far as we can go,'' he said.