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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


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Former Dirtbag Caleb Balbuena Is Featured... the Sonora Union Democrat:
"Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood." That's Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige's advice on how to stay young.

In 1948, on his 42nd birthday, Paige - a longtime star in the Negro Leagues before the color barrier was broken in 1947 - became the oldest player to make his major league debut.

Tuolumne's 28-year-old Caleb Balbuena hopes to get there sooner. He was by far the oldest player on the roster of the Class A Modesto Nuts this year, but that made no difference to him.

The Summerville High School graduate feels better on the mound than ever before. As a Nuts reliever this season, he felt every bit as energetic as in his rookie year at the turn of the Millenium. And he still dreams of the big leagues like a 6-year-old putting on his first Yankees jersey.

His pitching line speaks for him: A 2-0 record and a 2.65 earned-run-average with a 15-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 innings. The Nuts made the North Division championship series, but were swept by the San Jose Giants.

"I had a good outing," said Balbuena, who was signed by the Colorado Rockies' organization in August and sent to their Class A farm team. "I was very happy with my performance, coming into the organization from independent ball and being a little bit older.

"Maybe I'll get a big league invite."

Balbuena, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound right-hander, said his age worked to his advantage. While getting upset about off-days a few years ago, he now learned to accept them.

"I'm recognizing now that I don't feel good every day," Balbuena said. "One day I hit the fastball location and one day I may hit the backstop. Pitching is 80 percent mental."

Balbuena learned how to utilize his entire repertoire: fastball (two-and-four seamer), curve and slider.

He wants to play winter ball either in Mexico or the Dominican Republic to stay sharp during offseason. If that doesn't work out, he'll practice at a throwing school in the Los Angeles area and hopefully join a major league camp for spring training.

His former coach at California State University, Long Beach, Dave Snow, who now works as a Rockies scouting consultant, thinks it's possible Balbuena will play at a higher level next year.

"He put himself in a good position," Snow said. "I talked to him after the season ended and we had a very upbeat conversation. He feels good about the way he performed, especially in the playoffs."

Balbuena played baseball and basketball for Summerville and competed at Modesto Junior College, Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and Long Beach State. After helping the 49ers reach the College World Series in 1998, Balbuena moved around in the minor league system, playing on six farm teams in California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Missouri. He pitched for the Kansas City T-Bones, an independent team, before coming to Modesto.

He left the T-Bones with a 2.45 ERA and remained solid for the Nuts, striking out six batters in three playoff innings in Game 2 of the Giants series.

"I've never struck out that many guys in three innings before," he said. "I felt good and I felt confident."

His father Phil noticed that, too. He attended many Nuts home games and even traveled to away games in Stockton and San Bernardino to see his son in action.

"His mental game has improved outrageously," Phil said. "The heat is still there but he knows he doesn't have to throw it all the time. His arm his healed and he's putting it all together now."

A few years ago, while playing for a minor league team in Pennsylvania, Balbuena injured a tendon in his throwing arm and underwent ulnar collateral ligament construction, also known as Tommy John surgery (a tendon from wrist or hamstring is implanted in the elbow).

The procedure went well and Balbuena used the break to overhaul his throwing mechanics. It put less stress on his arm and added another 5 to 7 mph to his fastball.

"If I keep putting up zeros, I'll have a job within an organization," Balbuena said visioning the majors. "It doesn't matter what city."

posted on 9/21/2005 by Jeff Agnew