Best Of Arizona Sports:
The Grand Canyon State Has Two Of The Top Collegiate Baseball Teams In The Country, But What About Those Who Played Here In Little League And High School? We Assemble An All-Time Lineup
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 10, 2016 — With its year round sunshine and booming baseball industry, Arizona seems like the perfect breeding ground for professional baseball players. So, how many top-notch ball players has the state produced? Sadly, the answer is not many.
Still, the Grand Canyon State has produced a few quality major leaguers that spent more than a cup of coffee in The Show and there are even a couple of World Series champions on its roster. I have compiled the best of the best here in order to create the definitive Arizona All-Stars roster.
Not every player on this list was born in Arizona. If I adhered to that strict criteria, someone like Shea Hillenbrand could have made the list and no one wants that.
The reasoning behind this decision also has to do with Arizona’s transient nature. As any resident will tell you, just about everyone who lives here is from somewhere else. While that statement is a slight hyperbole, it does hold a kernel of truth in that, more than almost any other state in the continental U.S., Arizona is home to a range of folks from across the country.
So, rather than limit my list to natives, I broadened the requirements for this list a bit to include players that, at the very least, played high school ball here. That way I’m not leaving out the players who moved here as kids.
Without further adieu, here are the best players to come out of Arizona at every position.
Catcher: Paul Lo Duca
The Brooklyn-native attended Glendale’s Apollo High School before making his way to Glendale Community College. It was on the junior college circuit that the he really shined, drawing the attention of Arizona State University. Lo Duca cemented his status as a legit, if still fringe, prospect in 1993 when he batted .446 and was the Sporting News Player of the Year.
The Dodgers drafted Lo Duca in the 25th round of the 1993 amateur draft and he went on to have a solid, if not spectacular, career with the team. He hit .286 with 80 home runs and 481 RBI over 11 years with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets and Nationals. The four-time all star had his best season in 2001 when he broke into the Dodgers starting lineup and hit 25 home runs and drove in 90 RBI while batting .320. He finished 19th in MVP voting that year.
First Base: Paul Konerko
The longtime White Sox first baseman got his start at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale. The slugging then-catcher had garnered hype since his early teens and led Chaparral to a 31-4 record and a state title by hitting .564 with 12 home runs his senior season, according to MLB.com’s Kevin Murphy, who was Konerko’s high school teammate.
The Dodgers drafted Konerko 13th overall in 1994. He excelled in the minors for the Dodgers but failed to show the power he was known for in limited appearances in the majors. Eventually, the Dodgers traded him to the Reds in July 1998 who then traded him to the White Sox a few months later.
It was in Chicago that Konerko realized all of that potential he had shown in high school and the minor leagues. He moved to first base due to a hip condition (and an inability to play third) and never looked back.
In 16 seasons in Chicago, Konerko hit .281 with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBI. He was a six-time all star and five times finished in the top 25 in MVP voting. He also led the White Sox to a World Series Championship in 2005 and became team captain in 2006.
To this day, he is arguably the best position player to come out of Arizona.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler
Kinsler is the first player on the list actually born in Arizona. The Tucson-native played for Canyon del Oro High School, where he won two state titles. He then stayed close to home at played for Central Arizona College before transferring to Arizona State University, where he played with fellow future all-star second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He then transferred to University of Missouri Columbia to finish out his college career.
The Diamondbacks drafted Kinsler in the 29th round, and he was drafted again by the club in 2001 in the 26th round. Both times, he opted for college. Kinsler was finally drafted for good in the 17th round by the Texas Rangers in 2003 and has outplayed that draft position ever since.
Over the course of the next decade, he positioned himself as one of the best second baseman in Texas history. He hit .273 with 748 runs scored, 156 home runs and 539 RBI over eight seasons in Texas before being traded to Detroit. Over three-plus seasons in Detroit, Kinsler has largely replicated the success he had in Texas, and shows little signs of slowing down as he has 25 home runs so far in 2016, his highest total since he hit 32 in 2011.
Third Base: Bob Horner
Horner, another Apollo High School grad, attended ASU in the mid-1970s and won a College World Series Championship with the team in 1977, winning the series MVP. The powerful then-second baseman was then picked first overall by the Atlanta Braves in the 1978 draft. He was also eventually inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Horner’s college success translated to the majors as the third basemen continued to pump out 25+ home runs per season with regularity. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 1978 and one all star game over his relatively short career. He spent nine years with Atlanta before playing one year in Japan due to salary disputes before returning to MLB for a final season with St. Louis in 1988. Horner hit .277 with 218 home runs and 685 RBI over the course of his MLB career.
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