Looking to give fans and alumni an opportunity to check out the Dirtbags’ new batting and pitching facilities, Long Beach State hosted its first Dirtbags Fan Fest Saturday at Blair Field.
Along with seeing the new facilities, those in attendance were able to meet this year’s Dirtbags while also getting a chance to hear from former Dirtbag and current Toronto Blue Jay pitcher Marco Estrada.
Among those who attended the event was Tom Sisson, a right fielder for the Dirtbags from 1978-79. While Sisson was a member of the team 40 years ago, he says he will always follow the team.
“I’m very fortunate,” Sisson said. “[I’m] a long-time alumni, ex-player. I’m always going to come back and support our team, but [seeing] a guy like Marco Estrada who’s obviously an incredible big leaguer and [who] I’ve met many times, [it was] really wonderful to be a part of that.”
Sisson commented it’s great that former players continue to support and contribute to a program that currently has the most former players on Major League Baseball teams in the country.
“Marco is in the big leagues, but he’s one of us, he’s a Dirtbag,” Sisson said. “Just have to think how wonderful it is to represent our college, be in the big leagues and come back and support us. It’s pretty fantastic.”
Along with Estrada guest speaking at the event, former Dirtbags Jason Vargas and Evan Longoria both contributed $100,000 to help fund the Blair Field renovations.
Although Estrada was impressed with the new renovations, he admitted that one change to the stadium might have been an issue when he was still playing at LBSU.
“If I was still playing here I’d be a little upset since they brought in the [outfield] walls,” Estrada said jokingly. “It looks so much better than what I remember. They have the batting cages now and it’s a massive facility.”
While he had a chance to be a part of the team’s first Fan Fest, Estrada appreciated the amount of fans who attended the event that reminded him of when he was a Dirtbag.
“I remember when I played here and we always had a lot of fans,” Estrada said. “So it’s good to see a similar turnout.”
Along with public and former players, current players have commented on how the facilities have improved daily exercises the team goes through.
“I love the new facilities,” Nelson said. “We’re able to get a lot more work in — in less time so I mean it’s definitely going to be nice.”
Bringing the event to a close was an alumni game that featured this year’s teams against former Dirtbags, including Tanner Brown, Zack Domingues and Eric Hutting from last season’s NCAA regional team.
The current Dirtbags won the game 6-3.
LBSU will start its season with weekend series when the Dirtbags host the Oklahoma Sooners starting Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Blair Field.
Last season the Sooners finished the season 30-27-1 and went 11-13 in Big 12 play.