Cal Baseball Among the Nation's Leaders for Number of Major Leaguers
June 25, 2010
For the past few years the California baseball program has been among the nation's leaders for number of former players in the Major Leagues and 2010 has been an especially impressive as nine Golden Bears - John Baker (Florida Marlins), Geoff Blum (Houston Astros), Brennan Boesch (Detroit Tigers), Allen Craig (St. Louis Cardinals), Conor Jackson (Oakland A's), Brandon Morrow (Toronto Blue Jays), Xavier Nady (Chicago Cubs), Tyson Ross (Oakland A's), Tyler Walker (Washington Nationals) - have graced Big League rosters this summer.
Cal coach David Esquer has seen 57 of his players selected in the Major League draft since 2000, including four, first-round draft picks - Jackson in 2003, Morrow in 2006, David Cooper in 2008 (Blue Jays) and Brett Jackson in 2009 (Chicago Cubs). Cal baseball currently has eight former players on Major League rosters, tying LSU for the most players in the Big Leagues of any school in the nation.
'We are impressed with the number of players who have come through our program and been able to ascend to the Major Leagues,' said Esquer. 'We are proud of the fact we were able to help these individuals become better athletes and better students on their way to developing into high-achieving professional ballplayers.'
One of the most impressive stories in all of pro baseball this summer has been the play of Detroit Tigers' rookie left fielder Boesch (2004-06), who was called up from the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens on April 23 and has proceeded to hit .346 with 14 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 39 RBI in 50 games. He hit a double on the first pitch he saw in the Major Leagues, his first Big League home run was a grand slam on April 30 and he was named the American League Rookie of the Month for May.
A pair of Bears are now teammates for the local club, the Oakland A's. Conor Jackson was acquired by A's in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 16 and is currently batting .345 (10-for-29) with two doubles and three RBI for his new team. Ross, a native of Oakland who only concluded his Cal career in 2008 when he was a second round draft pick, made the Big League roster after only one and half years in the minors. Utilized mostly as a reliever with two starts in 24 games, Ross is 1-4 with a save, a 5.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.
Morrow has the distinction of being the highest draft pick ever in Cal baseball history, despite being a diabetic. After a 2006 spring with the Bears (7-4, 2.05 ERA, 97 strikeouts in 96.2 innings), the hard-throwing right-hander was selected a first-rounder, and the fifth pick overall, by the Seattle Mariners in the 2006 draft. Morrow was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays prior to this season and had an outstanding effort in his last outing Thursday (June 24) in a 5-0 shutout of St. Louis, throwing 8.0 innings with five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. On the year he is 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 84.0 innings.
Another former Cal standout who has changed teams this summer is Nady, who was traded from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Cubs, where he is hitting .252 with five doubles, four home runs and 19 RBI in 51 games. Playing for Cal from 1998-2000, Nady was a three-time All-American and the 1998 National Freshman of the Year for the Bears. He was a second-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2000.Nady has played for five different teams in his Major League career (San Diego, New York Mets, Pittsburgh, Yankees, Cubs) and owns a .279 career average with 133 doubles, six triples, 91 home runs and 344 RBI in 11 seasons.
Cal also features Major League veterans Blum and Walker. Blum (1992-94), a valuable utility player for Houston, has played for five different teams (Montreal, Houston, Tampa Bay, Chicago White Sox, San Diego) with a .249 career average (197-2B, 15-3B, 95-HR, 459 RBI). He was the Bears' starting shortstop as a freshman when they qualified for the 1992 College World Series. Blum now has a 13-year career in the big leagues, highlighted by his pinch-hit, game-winning home run in the 14th inning during the Chicago White Sox victory over Houston in Game Three of the 2005 MLB World Series.
Walker (1996-97) is a success story as well, coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2006 to become one of the San Francisco Giants' top relievers in 2007 and 2008. He is currently 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA, and has 33 strikeouts in 35.1 innings for the Washington Nationals. Walker lettered from 1996-97 after beginning his college career as a catcher. He switched to the mound and became a second round draft pick of the New York Mets in the 1997 Major League draft. Walker has played for the Mets, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Washington in his 11-year career.
Baker, who is on the disable list with the Florida Marlins (strained right elbow), was teammates with Conor Jackson on Cal's 2001 NCAA Regional squad that traveled to Baton Rouge, La., and was called up to the majors for the first time in his career on July 9, 2008. He now has a career batting average of .273 with 42 doubles, a triple, 14 home runs and 88 RBI in 196 games in two plus seasons with the Marlins.
Former Cal slugger Craig has been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals for eight games this season (from April 8-24, May 31). He played for the Bears from 2003-06 and has been stellar in the Cardinal's Minor League system, hitting .322 with a .547 slugging percentage at Triple-A Memphis last year. On April 8 Craig started in right field for St. Louis and got his first major league hit April 11 at Milwaukee.
On June 22, Cubs Minor Leaguer Brett Jackson was selected to the United State's 25-man roster that will play the World Team for the 12th annual All-Star Futures Game, which will be part of Major League All-Star Weekend, Sunday, July 11, 2010, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. All-Star Sunday is the first of three days of All-Star events at the Angels' home park, culminating with the 81st MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13. Playing for Class-A Daytona, Jackson is batting .305 with 16 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, 38 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 65 games.
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