It’s no secret that San Diego is a hotbed for baseball talent. In fact, Baseball Almanac names San Diego the most talented baseball city in the most talented of baseball states, California. That’s pretty high praise, and it’s very deserving. Unfortunately, not many of these names played for the hometown San Diego Padres (I will give Ted Williams credit for playing for the PCL Padres in 1936 and 1937).
This is an article to brag about how talented our beloved city of San Diego is when it comes to baseball. Almost yearly, a local San Diego prospect or prospects (plural), get first-round draft hype. You can watch baseball almost anywhere in San Diego county and enjoy high-quality baseball.
It’s also fun to follow players from schools you either attended or played against if you were like me and played high school baseball in San Diego County (Go San Pasqual Fighting Eagles).
Let’s take a look at a “Field of Dreams” scenario where time doesn’t matter, but good baseball does. Players must have either played high school baseball in San Diego or have played collegiate athletics in the San Diego area to have made this list. Simple as that.
Here are the greatest baseball players at each position that call, or have called San Diego home.
Catcher: Bob Boone (Crawford High School)
Boone is, of course, the father of two baseball star sons in Bret and Aaron Boone as well as the son of two-time MLB All-Star Ray Boone. Bob Boone caught for the Philadelphia Phillies and California Angels for most of his career. He won seven Gold Gloves behind the plate and earned four all-star bids. He also helped the Phillies to their first World Series championship in 1980. Boone was not known so much for his bat (career high 12 home runs, .254 lifetime hitter) but more for his glove and arm (8th all-time in putouts as a catcher, 3rd in games caught all-time).
The Crawford Colts struggle in baseball now in the City League, but they have had several alumni get drafted, including Dave Duncan (109 home runs in 11 years) and Ed Herrmann 80 home runs in 11 years).
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez (Eastlake High School)
I almost wanted to purposefully exclude Gonzalez due to the fact he is a Dodger now and has tortured the hometown boys since his departure from the Padres in 2010. The fact is Gonzalez is a darn good baseball player and made Padres fans proud for five solid seasons. He is a San Diegan who is second on the Padres’ all-time home run list. There is just a bit of recent bias. He just finished his sixth season as a Dodger. He sits at 311 career home runs, a .288 lifetime average with just over 2,000 hits.
Gonzalez once hit 30+ home runs in four straight season for his hometown Padres. He certainly was a fan favorite when he called Petco Park home, but that also makes the sting of him as a Dodger that much more painful. Gonzalez is a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and he has won two Silver Sluggers at one of the toughest positions at which to shine offensively since there are so many big bats playing first base.
The Eastlake Titans are in Chula Vista and have had a strong athletic program for years. The Titans went 32-4 last season, easily winning the Metro Mesa League and beating Helix in the CIF Open Division San Diego championship.
Second Base: Mark McLemore (Morse High School)
Pickings were a bit slim at second base, but that doesn’t mean McLemore wasn’t a good player. He played in 19 seasons, most of those with the California Angels and Texas Rangers. He collected 1,602 hits over his career. His best season was with those 2001 Seattle Mariners that won a record 116 games. He hit .286 with 117 hits and a .790 OPS. He was more known for his speed than his power as he stole 39 bases to his five home runs. He had six RBI during the 2001 postseason with Seattle. He also played for the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, and Cleveland Indians. He retired after the 2004 season.
Morse High School is in the City League near downtown San Diego. Other notable Tigers baseball players are Adam Jones (you will see him later) and player Quintin Berry. Sam Horn also played at Morse High.
Shortstop: Alan Trammell (Kearny High School)
Like Gonzalez, Trammell hasn’t made himself many San Diego sports friends recently. Let’s not let that take away from the fact the Trammell was one of the best in the game in the 80’s and is a borderline MLB Hall of Famer. He played his entire 20-year career with the Detroit Tigers. He broke his hometown Padres’ hearts when the Tigers defeated the Padres in the 1984 World Series. He hit .450 in that series and, ironically, was the MVP against San Diego.
Trammell was a lifetime .285 hitter with 2,365 hits. He was a six-time All-Star, won four Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers to go along with his World Series MVP trophy. His best season was in 1987. He finished second in MVP voting after batting an absurd .343 with 28 home runs and 105 RBI. Those numbers for a shortstop back then were revolutionary.
Kearny is one of the older schools in San Diego, opening in 1941. They compete in the City League.
Third Base: Graig Nettles (San Diego High School, San Diego State)
Most diehard Padres fans know Nettles’ name from his brief time at the end of his career with the Padres that included the World Series run in 1984. He is known around the league for his 11 years with the New York Yankees. He led the American League with 32 home runs in 1976. He finished his career with 390 home runs and 2,225 hits.
Nettles was selected to six All-Star teams, he won two Gold Gloves, and is a two-time World Series champion. He is 3rd all-time in games played at third base with 2.412. He played three seasons in San Diego, until he reached age 41. He hit 51 home runs in those three years. He played until he was 43 years old with the Montreal Expos in 1988. Nettles was on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot from 1994 to 1997.
The San Diego High School Cavers are one of the more recognizable schools given the fact that the school is located right on Park Blvd. downtown. Other notable baseball alumni are Jacque Jones (165 home runs in 10 years) and Deron Johnson (245 home runs in 16 years). The Cavers won the City League in 2016.
Left Field: Ted Williams (Hoover High School)
Is there really anyone else even close? Ted Williams is one of the, if not the greatest hitter to ever live. Keep in mind he lost three seasons of his career in his prime to bravely fight in World War II. Still, with that three-year gap, his numbers are eye-popping. He slugged 521 home runs, accumulated 2,654 hits, batted a mind-blowing .344 over his 19-year career, and won the MVP award twice. If there were the amount of awards there are now (Silver Slugger, Gold Gloves), I am sure he would need a separate house to keep all of that hardware. He had a career wRC+ of 188 (to put that into context, Mike Trout had a 170 wRC+ in his 2016 MVP season).
Williams played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox. His career .482 on-base percentage is still the best all-time by a large margin. The Splendid Splinter also walked almost three times per one strikeout. Modern hitters would get dizzy just thinking about that. Williams was one of the easier inductions into the Hall of Fame, getting in on his first try in 1966.
Hoover High School has one of the richest histories in sports in San Diego county. Ray Boone (Bob’s father) also played for the Hoover Cardinals. They currently compete with Morse High in the City League.
Center Field: Adam Jones (Morse High School)
It’s not really fair to put Adam Jones in the same outfield as Ted Williams and the right fielder to be named, but Jones has been great in his own right. He is a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and Silver Slugger at one of the toughest positions at which to maintain success. He has an active streak of seven straight seasons with at least 25 home runs.
Jones is one of the better and more consistent center fielders in baseball today. Now 32 years old, he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. In 2017, he hit .285 (his highest since 2013) with 26 home runs. He has one more year on his deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Then, who knows? Maybe the Padres can convince him to come home.
Right Field: Tony Gwynn (San Diego State)
This is the most unsurprising inclusion in the history of sports lists. Yes, I know he technically grew up in Los Angeles and Long Beach. But what he has done since college makes him the greatest San Diego athlete ever. He is Mr. Padre and Mr. San Diego. He became a San Diego State Aztec and then never really left San Diego. Before, during, and after his MLB career, Gwynn represented San Diego proudly, and the feeling among San Diegans was mutual.
San Diegans know the numbers. However, I am going to list them anyway because I love to marvel at the mountainous amounts of awards and stats Gwynn accumulated throughout his 20-year career with the Padres. 15 All-Star selections, five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, eight batting titles, and a first ballot Hall of Famer. He collected 3,141 hits with a lifetime batting average of .338. He really was the Ted Williams of his time, which is cool since Williams is also featured in this fantasy team of San Diegans. Gwynn was part of the two National League pennants in Padres history as well as both World Series appearances.
San Diego State is a very well-respected baseball program thanks to Gwynn. The Aztecs have made the NCAA tournament in four of the past five seasons. Gwynn was everything right with the city of San Diego and we deeply miss him.
Troy Glaus (Carlsbad High School), Brian Giles (Granite Hills High School), Brady Anderson (Carlsbad High School), Kevin Mitchell (Clairemont High School), Marcus Giles (Granite Hills High School), Tony Gwynn Jr. (Poway High School, San Diego State), Eric Chavez (Mt. Carmel High School), Ty Wigginton (Chula Vista High School), Oscar Robles (Montgomery High School), Benji Gil (Castle Park High School), Eddie Williams (Hoover High)
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