Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Evan in Baseball Heaven


RT Staff Note: Today is the first day to sign a national letter of intent. Congrats to those that worked hard to get to this point. We will post our list shortly. To see how big of an impact college can have, the following is a story from the Long Beach Press Telegram. One important paragraph from this article states,'Longoria's win also underscores Major League Baseball's growing affection for ready-made college baseball stars. Of the last 14 rookie of the year winners dating back to 2002, 12 were collegiate products.' This is significant folks.

Not every player is an Evan Longoria, but college ball players are raising the eyebrows of Major Leagues scouts. We observed a college scrimmage last weekend and their were 10 scouts in attendance. All of you 2009 graduates...you will be entering college at the right time. Work harder than ever, because in the years ahead, the stakes for college baseball players will be raised a few notches.


Former Dirtbag star named AL Rookie of the Year and takes all 28 first-place votes.

By Bob Keisser, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/10/2008 10:28:55 PM PST


The one person Evan Longoria depended on most for tips during his transition from college to pro baseball was his former Long Beach State teammate Troy Tulowitzki.

So there's a small slice of irony that Longoria would go his mentor one better Monday when the third baseman won the American League Rookie of the Year award. The former Dirtbag and St. John Bosco product led the Tampa Bay Rays to their first-ever World Series and received all 28 first-place votes, making him the first unanimous winner since 1997.

More irony: The winner in 1997 was another Bosco Braves star, Nomar Garciaparra, the current Dodger who was a unanimous choice when he was with the Boston Red Sox.

Tulowitzki finished second in balloting for the NL award last season, barely losing to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. Longoria is the second Dirtbag to win the AL rookie award; Bobby Crosby won it in 2004. He also is the third Dirtbag to claim a major award, joining Crosby and 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi.

"I'd be lying if I said I expected to be in this situation when I was a kid," Longoria said Monday. "There were times when I struggled when I played in high school and even college baseball.

"But like any kid who loves baseball, it's something you dream about, and this feels like a dream come true. It's such a special thing, to be unanimous, that it's hard to put into words. I appreciate every vote, especially since I didn't start the year in the majors."
Longoria,

23, was the Rays' first-round pick and third pick overall in 2006. He had a sensational first pro season in 2007, hitting well at three different levels. He was sent to the minors before the start of the 2008 season but was called up two weeks later and never looked back.

He hit .272 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs despite missing five weeks with a broken wrist.

Longoria hit .353 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs as the Dirtbags' junior leader in 2006. He said playing alongside Tulowitzki in 2005 as a sophomore was a key part of his development.

"I haven't had much time to talk to many people (from his local days)," he said. "I've had texts with Tulo, Coach (Mike) Weathers, (assistant) T.J. Bruce. I spoke with Tim McDonald, my hitting coach in 2006. The lady who cuts my hair is the wife of my former high school baseball coach, so I've sent some messages back.

"The important people at Long Beach were Troy, Coach Weathers and (sports psychologist) Ken Ravizza with all he taught me about the mental side of baseball. Troy, just talking to him seeing how he went through the whole process last year was such a big help."

Weathers said: "It's such a fantastic story, for Evan having such a tremendous season and to be a part of what happened with Tampa Bay. Like everyone who comes out here and has some success, I hope we've played a small part of where he is today."

What most observers and voters keyed on was Longoria's poise as a rookie for a World Series team and how he and other young Rays have put a face on a franchise that until 2008 had never had a winning season.

"Baseball is a team sport, but every franchise has somebody that sticks out," he said. "But whether it's me or B.J. Upton or Scott Kazmir, it doesn't matter. If it happens to be me, I'll do the best I can to represent the club and the city.

"I feel like I can do more. I wouldn't go into next year expecting myself to hit double the home runs and double the RBIs, but if I were able to replicate this year every year, it'd be a productive year. I know I have the ability to do more, and all I can really do is prepare myself to the best of my abilities and then go out on the field and see what happens."

Longoria's win also underscores Major League Baseball's growing affection for ready-made college baseball stars. Of the last 14 rookie of the year winners dating back to 2002, 12 were collegiate products.

Four of the last five AL ROY winners were first-round picks - Longoria, Detroit's Justin Verlander (2006, Old Dominion), Oakland's Huston Street (2005, Texas) and Crosby (2004). In the NL, Braun and Colorado's Jason Jennings (2002) were also first-rounders.

"I think there are a lot of teams that want players who are in that 22- and 23-year-old range who have been prepared in college and can play in the majors soon," Longoria said.

"It's what I did in college playing against top-caliber players that prepared me for this."

Other Dirtbags to place in ROY voting include Tulowitzki, Jered Weaver (fifth, 2006-AL), Jason Vargas (tie eighth, 2005-NL), Terrmel Sledge (tie sixth, 2004-NL) and Steve Trachsel (fourth, 1994-NL).

There have been several other Long Beach and neighborhood MLB award winners in the past. Wilson's Jeff Burroughs was the 1984 AL MVP, Bellflower-born Jeff Kent was the 2000 NL MVP, and Long Beach-born Tim Salmon was the 1993 AL Rookie of the Year.

Wilson standout and Hall of Famer Bob Lemon's peak years came before the creation of the Cy Young Award, and he likely would have won it three times if it had around. He ranked fifth in AL MVP voting in 1948, 1950 and 1954 and was the top vote-getter among pitchers all three seasons.

Poly's Tony Gwynn won eight NL batting titles; Bosco's Garciaparra won two AL batting titles; Poly's Vern Stephens led the AL in RBIs three times and home runs once; and Compton's Duke Snider, the Dodgers Hall of Famer, led the NL in home runs and RBI once and twice finished second in the 1955 NL MVP voting.

The Cubs' Geovany Soto hit .285 with 23 homers, 35 doubles and 86 RBIs to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. He became the first catcher to win ROY in either league since Mike Piazza of the Dodgers in 1993.

The previous winner from the Cubs was pitcher Kerry Wood 10 years ago. "I just didn't want to put extra pressure on myself. I just wanted to do my job as the team required," Soto said on a conference call from Puerto Rico .

Soto became the first NL rookie catcher to start an All-Star Game. In addition to his productive hitting all season, he did a nice job handling a Cubs pitching staff that compiled a 3.87 ERA, third-best in the NL. He even caught a no-hitter by Carlos Zambrano.

"It's kind of surreal. It really hasn't sunk in yet," Soto said.

bob.keisser@presstelegram.com
The Associated Press contributed to this story

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