SANFORD — Ino Patron is a Dirtbag. Proud of it in fact.

The Sanford Mainers’ outfielder doesn’t remotely represent what many envision when they hear the slang term dirtbag. He’s not a grubby, unsavory character. Actually he’s just the opposite, at least when he’s not on the diamond.

On the playing field Patron enjoys dusting it up and making sure the washing machine has some serious post-game work to take care of, which makes him a natural fit for his college squad, the Long Beach State Dirtbags.

“It was a perfect situation there,” Patron said after a recent game. “(The Dirtbags nickname) defines the way I play the game. I was always taught to play hard and try to be the dirtiest guy on the field when it’s all said and done.”

According the Long Beach State athletic web site, the college’s athletic teams are known as the 49ers in honor of the year the school was founded as well as the fact that the city of Long Beach was one of many involved in the 1850s gold rush. Teams are also sometimes referred to as “The Beach” because Long Beach State is the only college in the U.S. with the word “Beach” in its name.

The Dirtbags nickname is reserved exclusively for the baseball team. It came about in 1989 when the first-year program practiced on a dirt field because it didn’t have a home field. The team won its first 18 games and advanced to the College World Series.

“We don’t like 49ers that much,” said Patron, who said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of the most famous baseball Dirtbag ”“ Evan Longoria of the Tampa Rays. “That’s not our thing. We’re known as the Dirtbags and we kind of like that.”

Patron, who started the summer season on a temporary contract with the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod League, didn’t exactly burst onto the scene with the Mainers. Slowed by a hamstring injury, Patron was forced to keep his up tempo approach somewhat in check. Despite keeping things at a moderate speed he still managed to be a consistent offensive producer with his average above .300 for the majority of the season.

Patron’s statistics have improved with his health and lately he’s been almost unstoppable. He’s reached base safely in his last eight games posting a .469 average with five doubles and six RBIs.

What might be even more remarkable about the Livermore, CA native’s season with the Mainers is that he has only struck out six times in 98 at-bats and three of those came in back-to-back games midway through July.

“The key stat for him is he has low walks and low strike outs,” said Sanford head coach Aaron Izaryk. “He walked more than he struck out at school. Guys like that are stingy hitters and they are going to be tough outs. You can’t teach that and he’s certainly got it.

“You watch him play and sometimes you see him and he looks like he’s going half speed but he’s got game, some serious game. His clock works and he’s a hard nose kid who plays the game hard when he’s healthy.”

Patron’s defining moment with the Mainers during the regular season occurred on July 24 when he reached base five times on two doubles, two single and an error, stole three bases and scored a pair of runs. His first double in the game was an all-out hustle play after he smashed a ball off the right-field wall and went full throttle to beat the throw to second. Moments later he stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly, creating a cloud of dust as he arrived safely at home plate.

It was a sequence that would have made his Dirtbag teammates smile. But not until the dust cleared.

— Contact Mark Jeanneret at 282-1535, Ext. 323.



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