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Long Beach's latest catch

Placer star Thys commits to continue career with Dirtbags
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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Joel Thys won’t mind getting called a Dirtbag next year. In fact, he’ll wear the name with pride. The Placer High senior has already verbally committed to play baseball at Long Beach State University. “The opportunity to play at Long Beach surpassed the other offers I had,” said Thys, who was also considering Santa Clara University, UC Irvine, University of Oregon, UNLV and Cal. “The coaching staff was a big part of my decision, and the reputation of the program, getting players to the professional level.” The Dirtbags have appeared in the College World Series four times and played in 17 of the last 20 NCAA tournaments. Jason Giambi, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Jered Weaver and Bobby Crosby highlight a list of 13 Long Beach products in Major League Baseball this season. In total, the Dirtbags have produced nearly three dozen major leaguers. “It’s a fine match for Joel,” said Gary Wilson, a Colorado Rockies scouting supervisor who is coaching Thys on a scout team this fall in Sacramento. “He’s a good hard-nosed player and the baseball program there desires that from their players.” In his last two seasons at Placer, the switch-hitting catcher has batted .451 (69-for-153) with 55 RBIs and 38 runs in 46 games. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Thys first visited the Long Beach campus before his spring season at Placer. “They expressed that they were looking forward to following me this season,” he said Thys batted a team-high .458 and also led the Pioneer Valley League runners-up with six doubles this spring despite sustaining a pesky knee injury a few games into the season. He committed in-person on July 15 while he was in Southern California to play in an end of summer tournament, one of many in which Thys has participated in recent months. His summer started with an invite to play on an all-star team in the Bay Area World Series in Santa Clara. Thys then flew to Minnesota and played in the 2008 Perfect Game National Showcase in mid-June, a tournament exclusively for the class of 2009 at the Twins’ Metrodome. Thys took a foul tip off his glove and broke his thumb during a tournament at St. Mary’s, missing a wood bat tournament in Georgia during a month of injury-induced inactivity. “That was a setback but I still feel very strong about how I did this summer,” Thys said. Thys will play in another Perfect Game tournament next month in Florida, one he calls “the next step after the Metrodome. “It’s a professional level event,” he said. “A lot of pro scouts are there. They want to see the top players from the 2009 class. It’s a pretty big deal.” Thys will then sign an early letter of intent in November, still 15 months before his first game in a Dirtbags uniform. He’s not overlooking his final prep season at Placer, either. He won’t play basketball for the Hillmen this fall as he focuses on baseball. “I’d like to help my team get farther in the playoffs and get to a section championship,” Thys said. “We’ve had really strong teams past few years that really haven’t been able to get to the next level. After this spring my ultimate goal is just to go in the draft. Thys maintains regular contact with the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Rockies. “It definitely comes to mind when you’re recruited so heavily by so many Division I schools, but it’s something I don’t like to think about too much. I’m just looking forward to going down to Long Beach and seeing what’s in store for me after that.”