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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Swing Kings: Chatham's Evan Longoria and Josh Morris Have Become The Centerpiece Of The A's Prolific Offense
by Eric Adler
CHATHAM - Ask any Cape Cod Baseball League batter and they'll tell you from the moment they arrive, step foot on the field, and take their first hacks in the batter's box, they struggle.
They all experience the rigors of life in the wooden bat fraternity. They all fall victim to the superlative pitching, and they all cope with having their names affixed to a paltry batting average.
In the pitcher-friendly Cape League, enduring strikeouts - and multiple strikeouts at that - is less a glaring imperfection than rite of passage, and finishing the summer over the Mendoza line is symbolic of a respectable season.
Chatham A's sluggers Evan Longoria [left in photo] and Josh Morris know this to be true, which makes it nearly impossible, then, to explain the duo's incendiary play from day one.
Three-and-a-half weeks into their Cape League careers, Chatham's formidable two-man team has played like ripened veterans, skipping over the customary grace period most Cape League rookies require.
Longoria, hitting .321 - fifth best of all CCBL batters - is vying for the vaunted batting title, and sports the third best slugging percentage (.547) on the peninsula, and Morris has also proven his proclivity for extra base hits, with a .525 slugging percentage.
But the pair's potent bat attack has paid off where it matters most, as Longoria and Morris' sterling play has been a major reason why Chatham (hitting .256 as a team) features a dynamic offense, second only to the Orleans Cardinals, who are hitting .265 as a unit.
A native of Downey, Calif., Longoria leads Chatham with 17 hits and nine RBIs, while Morris, who hails from Cartersville, Ga., is on his teammate's tail with 12 hits and eight RBIs. With three round-trippers each, they've already matched the A's home run total from a season ago.
That these two effulgent stars have been so successful torching ace after ace each night, and doing it by trading metal for maple and aluminum for ash no less, doesn't faze them.
In fact, the only thing Longoria and Morris have grappled with this summer is pinpointing a concrete reason why they've had so little trouble adjusting, while many of their peers berate themselves and bemoan their substandard play. The key, they say, is nothing other than a healthy dose of poise and pragmatism.
"I think anybody up here is capable of doing what we've been doing. I think we're just getting some breaks that other's haven't," said Longoria. "Baseball is a game of failure. You've got to realize you're going to get beat. That's why you go from pitch to pitch, from at-bat to at-bat. You've got to take it all in stride."
Longoria, who hit .320 with 30 RBIs for Long Beach State, has yet to cool off from his scorching spring. He's had five multiple hit games, an eight-game hitting streak, and further demonstrated his mettle with a three-run home run that proved the difference in a 5-1 win over Bourne. And he followed that up with a 4-for-4 performance in a win over Hyannis the next day....
Here on the Cape, just like at school, Longoria and Morris are receiving the proper instruction necessary to reach baseball's upper echelon, and those who know them best say they've got the tools to reach the majors.
"Evan has got a high level of passion and a real desire to succeed," said Chatham A's hitting coach Pat McGee. "He's a baseball player in the true sense. It doesn't matter where you play him, what the weather is like, or who you're playing against. He wants to be hear everyday....
...Morris has been an errorless first baseman, while Longoria has proven of great value as a utility infielder, alternating at second, short stop and third base.
Chatham Field Manager John Schiffner is most pleased with their daily diligence. "They've come here to play. They've come here to get better. And those two things are on the top of their list everyday," said Schiffner, noting gaudy stats don't always guarantee major league stardom....
"Guys playing in high school want to play in college," said Longoria. "Then they want to play in a Division One program. From there it's playing in a good summer ball league, and from there it's making it to the minor leagues, and so on and so fourth."
Stepping stone the Cape League may be, but it's been an enjoyable one, thanks largely to fans who trade jeers for cheers.
"The fact that people base their vacations around this league shocks me," said Longoria. "These people love you, and they love you no matter if you strike out or hit a home run. That's an awesome atmosphere to play in."