Seven Former Bruins Swinging Major League Bats
Aug. 31, 2005
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Over the past 85 years, 54 UCLA baseball players have gone on to play in the major leagues. Currently seven former Bruins are donning big league uniforms with several more on the rise throughout the minor league ranks.
Leading the way among current Big League Bruins are Chase Utley (UCLA 1998-2000) and Troy Glaus (UCLA 1995-1997). While the two missed each other at UCLA by a year, they have both managed to find themselves atop the National League leaderboard in several offensive categories in 2005. Glaus, the 2002 World Series MVP with the Anaheim Angels, has launched 30 home runs this season in his first campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks while already driving in over 80 RBI. He is currently 8th in the league in roundtrippers.
Utley, who is batting just a shade under .300, has already posted career highs in literally every offensive category. His current hit total of 123 is already nearly double his previous career high of 71 and his RBI count of 78 is among the top 20 in the National League.
Another Bruin continuing to make waves is San Diego Padre outfielder Dave Roberts (UCLA 1991-1994). Roberts, who won the 2004 World Series with the Boston Red Sox, has played in 93 games for the National League West leading Padres and has stolen 19 bases (10th in the NL) and knocked 16 doubles. Roberts batted .304 in the month of August.
Jeff Conine (UCLA 1985-1987), the eldest of former Bruins still in the bigs, has not let his age (39) get in the way of his stroke at the plate. Conine is in his 16th major league season and is currently batting .308 for the Florida Marlins. A career .287 hitter, he won the 1997 and 2003 World Series during stints with the Marlins and is currently amidst a battle for the National League Wild Card playoff spot.
The most recent Bruin to break into the show was Garrett Atkins (UCLA 1998-2000) who made hit debut in September 2004 and his since become the Colorado Rockies starting third baseman. Atkins blasted his first major league home run on September 11, 2004 and has continued his hot hitting in 2005. The former Bruin is hitting .279 with 9 home runs and 58 RBI for the Rockies and has helped turn 12 double plays from the hot corner.
Eric Byrnes (UCLA 1995-1998) was a teammate of Glaus, Utley and Atkins during his time at UCLA and his since made several more teammates while playing for an unprecedented three major league teams in 2005. Byrnes, who has knocked 22 doubles and 37 RBI this season, began the year with the Oakland Athletics but was twice moved before the MLB trading deadline to the Colorado Rockies and finally to the Baltimore Orioles. Byrnes is a .265 career hitter after five major league seasons.
Adam Melhuse (UCLA 1992-1993) is in his sixth major league season and third with the Oakland Athletics. In limited action this season, Melhuse is batting .259 with two home runs and 12 RBI for the current American League West leaders. His most productive season came in 2004 when he hit 11 home runs and drove in 31 RBI.Looking to slug his way back to the majors is Eric Valent (UCLA 1996-1998), who began the season with the New York Mets but has since been optioned to AAA Norfolk after batting just .186. Valent initially broke through with the Phillies in 2001 and posted his finest season in 2004 with the Mets. In that year he hit .267 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI.
By winning the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox, Roberts became the 13th former Bruin to win the Fall Classic. This season, he, as well as Glaus with the Diamondbacks and Conine with the Marlins is looking to continue the trend of Bruins winning in October. In fact, a former UCLA baseball player has been on the last three World Series winning teams (Glaus with Anaheim in 2002; Conine with Florida in 2003, Roberts with Boston in 2004).
For a glimpse at what the future may hold for Bruins in the Big Leagues, and check out how some of your favorite former Bruins are faring in the minors.