Back in 1989, a young Long Beach State 49ers baseball team adopted the unofficial nickname of Dirtbags because of the players’ propensity to play hard and get their uniforms dirty.
Thousands of miles to the east in North Carolina, a young baseball fan named Andy Partin took notice. And when he founded his own youth baseball program in 2004, his recollection of those Long Beach State teams led him to decide to call the organization Dirtbags Baseball.
“When I was growing up I saw those guys in the College World Series with the bleach-blond hair, and I thought, ‘Man, the Dirtbags, how cool is that?’” Partin said. “That’s really how I got it, and it’s pretty neat. It’s a cool name. It catches your attention.”
In its relatively short lifetime, Dirtbags Baseball has caught a lot of people’s attention.
Dirtbags Baseball is based in Sedalia, N.C., which is just outside of Greensboro. The organization’s goal is to concentrate on getting young players from North Carolina exposed to college coaches and professional scouts, but it does attract a few out-of-state players.
“It’s getting easier now that we’ve had some success, and people see a lot of the kids who played for our program go on to play college and professional baseball,” Partin said. “If we do get kids from out-of-state, it’s usually because those kids want to go to school at North Carolina or N.C. State or somewhere like that. We usually have a good relationship with those coaches.”
More than 300 Dirtbags alumni have earned college scholarships and 92 have been taken in the Major League Draft, including four first-round selections: Madison Bumgarner to the Giants in 2007, Justin Jackson (Blue Jays ’07), Dustin Ackley (Mariners ’06) and Cameron Maybin (Tigers ’05).
Five former Dirtbags were drafted in the first nine rounds this year, and all five signed and are playing professionally.
Dirtbags Baseball fielded five teams this summer, and 25 players from the high school classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013 have already verbally committed to colleges, in most cases the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and the University of South Carolina.
The top prospects in the program this year include right-hander Benton Moss (2011, Enfield, N.C.), whose is ranked 68th nationally by Perfect Game, and outfielder/right-hander Adam Griffin (2011, Clemmons, N.C.) who is ranked 94th nationally. Both have verbally committed to North Carolina.
Although Dirtbags Baseball has been around only since 2004, it already has a legacy. Tyler Hanover (2008, Kennersville, N.C.) played for the Dirtbags from 2005 to 2007 and Partin retired his No. 3 jersey in April, 2008.
“He’s the kid that really put us on the map,” Partin said. “He’s a blue-collar kid, and if we said ‘Hey Tyler, there’s a pickup scrimmage in San Diego tomorrow, could you go?’ and he’d say ‘Absolutely.’ He was the epitome of a Dirtbag.”
Hanover, who stands just 5-foot-5, was the starting second baseman at LSU last spring and played a key role in the Tigers winning their third straight Southeastern Conference championship.
Dirtbags Baseball premier team is the one known simply as the Dirtbags. That is the team the organization will send to the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 21-25.
“That’s kind of the 17U team, and I coach that team because that’s the team that’s generally getting the most attention from college coaches and professional scouts,” Partin said. “We’d love to take more than one team (to Jupiter), but it’s a long line to get into that tournament.”
Two different teams – known as the Dirtbags and the Dirtbags/Indians Scout Team, will compete at the Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 8-11.
Partin said the Perfect Game tournaments are annually the highlight of the Dirtbags’ schedule. Over the last six years, the Dirtbags have compiled a 26-6-2 record at the WWBA World Championship, and finished third in ’05 and ’06 and fourth in ’07. Dirtbags Baseball teams have gone 24-7 at the WWBA Underclass World Championship, and finished second in ’07 and third in ’05.
“The Perfect Game events, especially Jupiter, the Underclass in Fort Myers, the national championships in East Cobb – they’re our Omaha,” Partin said in reference to the site of the College World Series. “Those are the tournaments that we really look forward to and that we build up towards in the summer and into the fall.
“Those are the ones the kids get most excited about, and Perfect Game does an awesome job of running the best tournaments in the business.”
Partin also owns a company called Impact Baseball that he started in 2001. It bills itself as “the most advanced and progressive high school baseball scouting and player information service in North Carolina” with its stated goal “to assist college coaches and professional scouts in indentifying and recruiting prospects” in North Carolina.
“It’s like a little-bitty Perfect Game,” Partin said with a chuckle. “It’s based out of North Carolina … and we run smaller tournaments – they’re quality, but we don’t get the number of teams that most of the Perfect Game tournaments do. We rank players like Perfect Game does, but it’s really just for the state of North Carolina.”
Dirtbags Baseball doesn’t have its own facility but plays frequently at UNC, N.C. State, East Carolina University and South Carolina.
Partin see no need for his organization to expand.
“I’ve got no interest in getting any bigger,” he said. “I really like our philosophy and how we run things and how we teach kids and develop kids and help them with the exposure aspect. I don’t see us getting any bigger anytime soon.”