Here's another chapter of our series creating all-time starting nines for some of college baseball’s most successful programs. Players' professional careers were not considered, just their college careers — along with consideration given to their positional fits as well as a batting order that could provide a combination of a high batting average, speed, and power.
Despite not ever capturing a College World Series title, the Dirtbags have a long history of standout players. Here’s a look at some of the best to ever suit up in Long Beach.
Outfield: Cobi Cradle (1990-93)
It was tough to decide between Cradle and the hit machine that was Chuck Lopez. Part of the 1998 squad that is widely considered the best offensive power in program history, Lopez is still in the top 10 in hits and batting average.
But Cradle was a starter on two of the four Long Beach State CWS teams in the history of the program. He is its all-time leader in games (228), steals (78) and runs scored (180). Cradle is also second in walks. With an ability to get on base and produce on the base paths, Cradle gets the nod to lead things off.
Outfield: Termel Sledge (1998-99)
Sledge was a beast for the Dirtbags, a key part of their most prolific offense of the 1990s if not program history. Sledge led the team in runs scored in both seasons he was in Long Beach, including a single-season record 99 in 1998. His .369 batting average is sixth all time, while his 22 home runs are third. Sledge was All-Conference for both of his seasons with the team and was an All-American in 1998.
Outfield: Rob Townley (1978-79)
Townley was the first All-American in Long Beach State history, so that should automatically help him edge out any competition. His .404 batting average is still second-best all time, and his 28-game hitting streak is the longest in LBSU history. He left the program as the leader in several categories, including home runs and RBI. While those records may have been broken, Townley's spot in LBSU history will forever be remembered.
First base: Don Barbara (1989-90)
Towney earned his nod for being the first All-American in Long Beach and Barbara was the first Big West Player of the Year in program history, so his spot was an easy choice. Well, that and the .474 batting average he put up in 1990 as the Division I Hitter of the Year. A member of the first-ever CWS team, Barbara's name can still be found in the record books. His .429 career batting average is second to none.
Third base: Evan Longoria (2005-06)
This was probably the least fun position to pick, and if this was a real lineup, it would be one of those cliched good problems to have. Paul Day was the 1998 Big West Player of the Year and his All-American campaign still has him in the top-10 in average (.377), RBI (131) and home runs (20). Jeff Liefer is the all-time home run leader (30) in Long Beach and though he spent a lot of time at designated hitter, it was tough to ignore him. And don’t forget Jason Giambi is a legend in Long Beach, one of just a few three-time All-Conference players. Giambi went on to make a living out of getting on base and he still leads Long Beach State in career walks (116) and is third in batting average (.397).
But the third baseman better known as Longo had a 2006 to remember. He won Big West Player of the Year on the way to becoming just the second Golden Spikes finalist in program history. He had tools across the board, able to hit for average, home runs and was an RBI machine in his two years in Long Beach. Longoria went on to become the highest draft pick in program history when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took him third overall in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Shortstop: Bobby Crosby (1999-2001)
The Dirtbags have had quite the run of shortstops come through Long Beach over the past couple of decades. Like third base, this made it very hard to pick just one. Dan Twiss can't be overlooked with a handful of career and single-season top-10 marks. Danny Espinosa was the Big West Freshman of the Year in 2006, earning All-Conference honors three times. Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best-known names to come out of the program, a three-time All-Conference player himself, and two-time All-American as well.
Former @LBSU Dirtbag baseball player and now MLB player for the Toronto Bluejays Troy Tulowitzki looks on as his son Taz Tulowitzki rounds 3rd base at Blair Field where Troy used to play. #Tulowitzki @LBDirtbags pic.twitter.com/xSnZknJAIV— Stephen Carr (@Carrphotos) December 11, 2017
Crosby gets the slight edge and the start, however. Yet another three-time All-Big West player, Crosby earned BWC Player of the Year honors in 2001. He is still in the top-10 in both hits and home runs in the LBSU record books. Crosby went on to some modest big-league fame, becoming the Oakland A's first-round pick in 2001 and 2004 American League Rookie of the Year.
Catcher: Bryan Kennedy (1998-2001)
Simply put, Kennedy was a machine. His name litters the record book across the board. From 1998 to 2001 he played 200 games (sixth all time) and started 195 of them (fourth). While playing solid catcher, he finished his career tops in Long Beach State history in doubles (60) and RBI (183) while finding his way into the top-10 in hits (224), runs (150), and total bases (316). He began his career as a Freshman All-American and earned two more All-Conference honors along the way. His name may not be as flashy as some of the others on this team, but it will be etched in the annals of LBSU history for a long time.
Second base: Chris Gill (1987-89)
Long Beach State went 14-45 in 1988. Enter coach Dave Snow and suddenly the Dirtbags are a 50-win team just one year later. Gill was one of the few that experienced the dramatic turnaround as the starting second baseman. Gill's name is still in the record books, as his hits (215) and at-bats (760) are still top-10 all-time marks.
Starting pitcher: Jered Weaver (2002-04)
There have been quite a few strong starting pitchers to come through Long Beach. Kyle Abbot was the ace for the Dirtbags first run to Omaha in a 1998 All-American campaign. The 2004 rotation alone produced three of the best pitchers in program history in Jason Vargas, Cesar Ramos, and Jered Weaver, going 34-11 with a 2.57 ERA that year.
It’s Weaver that gets the nod. The righty went 15-1 with a 1.62 ERA and a ridiculous 213-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 144 innings pitched. He took home the Golden Spikes Award that season before the then-Anaheim Angels made him the 12th overall pick in the MLB Draft.
Head coach: Dave Snow (1989-2001)
Long Beach State has made it to Omaha four times for the College World Series. All four times were under Snow's watch.
Snow has the most wins in program history, recording a .637 winning percentage behind an impressive 511-290-4 record. His teams were dominant in conference where he put together a career 71 percent win percentage. He was a five-time Big West Coach of the Year, reaching the regionals in all but two of his 13 seasons. When the Dirtbags reached the CWS for the first time in 1989, everyone took notice. Snow was the NCAA Coach of the Year.