History of the Dirtbag Moniker
The nickname of Long Beach State’s baseball team refers to the program’s style of play and success against higher profile programs.
The moniker was first coined for Coach Snow’s first team in 1989 which was comprised of nearly all new players. Playing without a home field (LBCC, Cerritos JC and Blair Field), and practicing at a local all-dirt Pony Field, that team won its first 18 games and advanced to the 49ers first College World Series appearance. Then-infield coach Dave Malpass would take his infielders to the all-dirt field for their rigorous workout. The infielders would return to the regular practice field after their sessions covered in dirt. Thus the name Dirtbags was born.
The name resurfaced again in 1993 when the 12-12 49ers rallied to win 34 of their next 41 games and finish three outs short of the National Championship game. The Dirtbags were once again a fan favorite at the 1998 College World Series as the country received a lesson in Dirtbag baseball. (courtesy LBSU Athletics)
The recipe for making a Dirtbag is not an exact science. “There is no catch phrase that describes ‘it,’” says LBSU baseball head coach Troy Buckley. Sometimes a Dirtbag is an underdog, like the first ragtag team of rookies to be branded with the moniker in 1989. These days Dirtbags are associated with the major leagues.
Last July, Fox Sports published an article, “Major League Baseball loves the Dirtbags,” that was exactly what’d you think – a look at the numbers (16 former Dirtbags in the major leagues in 2015, more than any other school in the nation, and more former players in the majors than any other school for the past six seasons) and some probing into the why.
What it comes down to, basically, is that Dirtbags have all the ingredients to succeed nicely in the majors. LBSU coaches are picky recruiters, evaluating players (even unlikely ones) from top to bottom. Couple that with the Dirtbag mentality and training, and Dirtbags become, well, MLB pay dirt.
“After our players get done playing here, they’ve been through something extremely hard,” says pitching coach Mike Steele. “They haven’t been allowed to quit. They’ve been pushed. They’ve grown into men. By the time they get to pro ball, they’re like, ‘I’ve already been doing this. I just gotta go to work.’ So they’re able to expedite the process of growing up in pro ball.”
Twenty-six former Dirtbags have gone on to the big leagues under Buckley’s coaching, including Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas and Vance Worley. Buckley was also instrumental in recruiting Troy Tulowitzki, who narrowly missed being in the World Series playoffs last year after being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who was recently inducted to the LBSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Buckley gives the credit to the players for their careers, but he also says the foundation they receive at Long Beach State is solid. It involves a lot of honesty, discipline and character building.
In LBSU baseball history, 46 players have gone on to the majors. Six former Dirtbags have won a World Series ring, and last year, there were 378 major league appearances by Dirtbag alumni and 71 starts, more than any other college in the country.
This coming college baseball season, LBSU coaches have their eyes on a couple of Dirtbags who might have a good chance at the pros. Junior shortstop Garrett Hampson and sophomore starting pitcher Chris Mathewson are both highly decorated players who were recently named to one of the 2016 Louisville Slugger Preseason All- American Teams.
The first game of the season is Feb. 19 against Holy Cross. Buckley says it’s a fun team with a lot of talent and toughness.
“Expectations are high internally,” he says. “I do believe in this team.”