Long Beach State baseball coach Troy Buckley has many reasons to be excited about this season, starting with Friday’s opener.
The Dirtbags kick off the 2017 season ranked No. 20 in the preseason Baseball America poll and as high as No. 17 by Collegiate Baseball. Long Beach also begins play against a solid Oklahoma squad in Norman, Okla. Because of the forecast of heavy rain, the season-opening series has been switched to Oklahoma's L. Dale Mitchell Park, delaying a chance for fans to see the new-look Blair Field, which is in the midst of a $20 million renovation. There are the new Troy and Darnyll Tulowitzki batting cages, outfield walls, team clubhouse and the Jered Weaver bullpen.
Still to be completed are improvements to the grandstand, a practice infield along the left field side of the facility, upgraded parking lot and more. A timeline on additional phases of construction will depend on funding for the project, generated through the Blair Field Campaign.
Still, much of Buckley’s anticipation stems from his team.
The Dirtbags feature several players who have caught the attention of national media and scouts. Among the players to watch are right-hander Darren McCaughan, last season’s Big West Conference pitcher of the year.
McCaughan finished the season with a 10-1 record and had an ERA of 2.03.
Others are catcher David Banuelos, a first-team all-conference pick, who batted .299 with 26 RBI and a .440 on-base percentage; first baseman Daniel Jackson (.321, 6 HR), designated hitter Luke Rasmussen (.305, 5 HR, 46 RBI) and outfielder Brock Lundquist (.315, 18 doubles, 36 RBI).
New scheduled start times are 2 p.m. (PST) Friday, 12 p.m. (PST) Saturday and 9 a.m. (PST) Sunday. Video streaming will be available with a premium subscription on SoonerSports.tv, and the games can be heard on KBeach Radio at KBeach.org and on theKBeach app.
Tickets purchased for this weekend's series can be redeemed for any other home baseball game this season, or for any other remaining Long Beach State home event, including the final three men's basketball games. Call 562.985.4949 for more information.
An added feature this season at Blair Field is a fireworks show that will be held on every Friday during a homestand. Season tickets are on sale.