The MLB All-Star Game isn’t just a showcase of the best talent in baseball, it’s also the signal for the halfway point of the season. That makes it the perfect time to take stock of how Long Beach’s baseball products have fared through the first half and who looks poised for a strong showing through the dog days of summer.
Once again, Long Beach will be represented in the Midsummer Classic by Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hit .332 and was first among all shortstops with 16 homers and 52 RBI. The former Dirtbag will be making his second start for the National League in his third All-Star appearance.
Tulo’s selection makes it the fourth straight year that Long Beach State has had a player in the game, but also extends an even more impressive mark for the city as a whole. Starting with the 1989 game in Anaheim, only once has Long Beach failed to have an All-Star representative, meaning the city has had a rooting interest in 24 of the last 25 MLB All-Star Games.
For the players not chosen, they’ll take this opportunity to rest and prepare for the second half. Long Beach State’s Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays) was talked about as an All-Star snub this year after hitting 18 homers with 52 RBI for the Rays and playing his usual great defense at the hot corner.
Another former Long Beach State star, pitcher Jered Weaver (LA Angels of Anaheim), ended his streak of three straight All-Star selections after a difficult first half. He made just 11 starts for the Halos after suffering a broken left elbow early in the year. Weaver’s teammate Jason Vargas has been out since June after a blood clot was found in his left armpit. He was 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA before his injury and is expected to return later this month.
Former Wilson Bruin Aaron Hicks (Minnesota Twins) missed a good chunk of time himself with a hamstring problem, but has responded well since coming off the DL. Since his return on July 2, Hicks has looked much more confident at the plate, hitting .271 with seven of his 13 hits going for extra bases. He smacked a three-run home run off of CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium to finish off his first half in style, and he could be primed for a strong close to his rookie campaign. He has proven a very capable centerfielder for the Twins with nine outfield assists and a handful of spectacular catches.
Another player fighting through the injury bug lately has been Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. The Poly alum had a right oblique strain that cost him a month of playing time, but he’s still fifth among all second basemen with 11 home runs this season. He has also been heavily discussed as a potential trade target this summer, with rumors pointing toward a return home to play for the Dodgers.
Fellow Jackrabbit James McDonald has still not made it back to the Pittsburgh Pirates after a shoulder injury landed him on the disabled list just six starts into his campaign. He was recently transferred to the 60-day DL, putting the rest of his season in doubt.
Elsewhere, injuries have opened the door for Long Beach State’s Joey Terdoslavich, who became the 44th Dirtbag to make an MLB roster when the Atlanta Braves called him up to the Show on the 4th of July. In the nine games since his call-up, he’s gotten just 16 at-bats and has three base hits over that span. Should the Braves’ outfield remain banged up, Terdoslavich could see some consistent time in the corner outfield spots.
As the season progresses and more teams fall out of the race, more young players will get their chance on the big stage. Perhaps the next Long Beach product to get that chance will be Millikan alum Jonathan Singleton. The power-hitting first baseman has a clear path to the big leagues now that the Houston Astros are in the AL and have a designated hitter spot in their lineup. Singleton is currently with the Oklahoma City RedHawks in Triple-A, where he is hitting .219 with three home runs through 30 games there.
The city’s most recent first round pick, Lakewood’s JP Crawford, has been playing extremely well with the Phillies’ Rookie League team. Crawford started his pro career on a nine-game hitting streak, including five consecutive multi-hit games over that stretch. He is currently hovering around the .400 mark in batting average and the speedy shortstop stole four bases in his first five contests.
Another former Lancer in the Phillies system, pitcher Shane Watson had a strong finish to his first half. Over his last four starts, he went undefeated while throwing 21 innings, allowing just 12 hits and three runs with 17 strikeouts.