Baseball season at Long Beach State is still a while away, but the Dirtbags are back on the field practicing as they eye who’ll make the roster come February.
The coaching staff will be seeing a lot of new faces with the incoming recruiting class bringing 34 newcomers, 19 of which are freshmen.
The 2022 class is a highly touted one, being noticed by both Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball who ranked the class 27th and 30th respectively.
“I want to see the recruiting class when it’s all said and done,” head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “Let’s see how many got drafted or how good our team was.”
Recruiting is a task of dedicated effort and time put into both finding and watching players, but also making sure the team is the right fit for each individual recruit.
The Dirtbags recruiting is handled by head coach Valenzuela and his two assistant coaches.
Travel is not a concern though, with Valenzuela describing the area as, “the hotbed of baseball.”
“We don’t have to go very far to find good players and good talent,” Valenzuela said.
Of the 19 freshmen only two came from out-of-state, both from Nevada.
One of the new recruits, pitcher Myles Patton, played high school baseball down the road at Millikan High School, where he won back-to-back Moore league MVP’s and a CIF championship in 2021 before committing to LBSU a day later.
“Just being from Long Beach, I want to be around my family and my little brother,” Patton said.
Being freshmen, many of the new players are unsure what the season will hold for them and whether they’ll make the roster or begin as redshirts.
“I wouldn’t say I have high expectations, but they are up there,” freshman pitcher Julian Orozco said. “One of them is just to obviously make the team and to be able to wear a Dirtbags jersey.”
Others have come to terms with the grind and aren’t unsure of their future, but are rather waiting for their call.
“I know my time will come,” freshman infielder Armando Briseno said.
Whether they find themselves as a defensive specialist, platoon bat, utility fielder or a pitcher that throws from a funky arm slot, there is always somewhere to be penciled in on a baseball roster.
“I just want to help the team win however I can,” Patton said. “If my role is to go out there and get just one out, then that’s what I’ll do.”
One thing was certain among the freshmen and head coach, being a mid-major is not a concern. No one was deterred by the title when committing and Valenzuela doesn’t believe it affects his ability to recruit the best in the country.
“I don’t consider ourselves a mid-major, when you’re talking about college baseball,” Valenzuela said. “I consider ourselves a Power Five.”
While the ranking of the class was highest among all mid-majors by Perfect Game and second highest by Collegiate Baseball, reasons for those rankings is something the team hopes to prove during the 2023 season, as they look to improve last year’s 29-27 record that saw them finish fifth in the Big West conference (17-13).
“In the fall, I can see a lot of them contributing for us immediately,” Valenzuela said.