It may only be February, but baseball is in the air.
Tonight, the Fresno State baseball team starts the 2013 season against UC Santa Barbara at Beiden Field. On the Major League level, pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Arizona and Florida on Monday.
Fresno State has a storied baseball program that has seen many players enjoy successful careers in the Major Leagues.
In honor of such a history, here is a list of the top five Bulldogs who have had the most success at the professional level. To be clear, this list is based off of a player’s time in the Majors, not his time as a Bulldog.
5. Doug Fister, pitcher
Following a successful senior year, the Seattle Mariners came calling in the seventh round of the 2006 amateur draft. Fister would spend four seasons in the Mariners minor league system before making his Major League debut in 2009.
Fister was traded to the Tigers during the 2011 season, where he flourished. He went 8-1 in his first 10 starts with a 1.79 ERA.
He also played a major role in the postseason, winning a decisive Game 5 in the American League Divison Series against the Yankees to help the Tigers advance. In the American League Championship Series, he would win game three, holding the Texas Rangers to two runs in 7 and a third innings.
He pitched another strong season in 2012 to help earn the Tigers a trip to the World Series to play the Giants. He pitched in Game 2. Despite being hit in the head by a line drive, he held the Giants to one run over six innings.
4. Jeff Weaver, pitcher
Weaver came to the Bulldogs in 1995 from Northridge, Calif.
After four years with Fresno State, the Tigers drafted him in the 1998 draft. Following only one year in the minors, Weaver made his major league debut in 1999. He would be the Tigers opening day starter in 2001 and 2002, before a trade sent him to the Yankees.
His time in New York was short lived though, and he became a Los Angeles Dodger in 2004. His first two seasons in L.A. would be his most successful, with 13 and 14 wins respectively. He chose to test free agency in 2006 and joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he got to play with his brother Jered. Sadly for Weaver, his brother would be the one to steal his spot in the rotation.
Everything worked out though, as the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Weaver. He played a key role in the Cardinals march to the World Series against the Tigers. He lost Game 2, but came back in Game 5 to give up 4 hits and 1 earned run in 8 innings. The Cardinals would win that game and the series, giving Weaver the game-clinching win.
3. Tom Goodwin, outfielder
Goodwin played for Fresno State from 1987 to 1989. The Dodgers picked him 22nd overall in the first round in ’89.
He made his major league debut in 1991 for the Dodgers to begin his long career. Goodwin played 14 years in the league for six different teams; the Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Rangers, Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers again, Giants, and Chicago Cubs.
While not always a star player, Goodwin made a long career out of being an extra outfielder, pinch hitter, and pinch runner.
Goodwin played in the playoffs four times in his career, twice with the Rangers in 1998 and 99, once with the Giants in 2002 when they lost in the World Series to the Angels, and again in 2003 with the Cubs when they lost to the Florida Marlins.
2. Matt Garza, pitcher
This Selma, Calif. native was the 25th pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2005. Garza made his debut for the Twins in 2006, after a short stint in the minors, but it was not until 2008 when he became a Tampa Bay Ray that he began to find success.
In the 2008 season, Garza was a major factor in the Rays reaching their first World Series, when he went 11-9 during the regular season. The 2010 season was his best though at 15-10, but it was a day in late July of that year that was his strongest.
Garza became the first Bulldog alumni and Ray to throw a no-hitter on July 26, 2010. He shut down the Tigers facing the minimum 27 batters, giving up only one walk in the second inning, but a double play erased it.
And the best Bulldog to play in the MLB is…
1. Terry Pendleton, third baseman
The Los Angeles-born Pendleton was an All-American during his time with the Bulldogs. In 1982, he was drafted in the seventh round by the Cardinals.
He was a three-time Gold Glove winner, earning the award in 1987 and 1989 with the Cardinals, and in 1992 with the Atlanta Braves. In 1991 as a Brave, he won the National League batting title and MVP award. In 1992 he made his first All-Star game and came in second in the MVP voting.
He made it to five World Series with the Cardinals in 1985 and 87, and the Braves in 1991, 92, and 96.
Pendleton became a coach for the first time in 2001, when he took over the hitting coach position for the Braves. In 2011, he switched positions, taking over the role of first base coach.
These are just five of the Bulldogs to find success at the next level. This easily could have been a much longer list.
Years from now Aaron Judge, Trent Garrison, or Tyler Linehan may find their way onto this list. Only time will tell.