BULLHEAD CITY — As the District 9 Little League TOC and All-Star teams embark on their six-week tournament journeys this weekend, a former Mohave Valley Little League stalwart just proved, once again, that the local baseball players can go on to do big things.
Josh Advocate, who played with the Mohave Valley Little League Astros, the MVLL All-Stars and helped the River Valley High School Dust Devils earn a Arizona Interscholastic Association baseball championship in 2012, earned Big West First-Team honors, while playing baseball during his senior season for the California State Long Beach Univeristy Dirt Bags.
“It was, to be honest, kind of a surprise,” said Advocate by cell phone on Wednesday evening. “I mean there is a lot of good arms in this conference.
“And being hurt for two of the weeks, I didn’t know if I got to that point, I guess.
“It’s awesome to have something come back after this long journey, the injuries, the setbacks, time rehabbing and just all that I’ve gone through.
“It’s just nice to have something come together, have a good year as a team, even doing some stuff individually.
“It was just nice to have it all come together.”
Advocate completed his second regular season with the Dirtbags with a 3-1 record. The senior right-handed pitcher gave up 10 runs — seven earned — while striking out 32 and walking four in 33 innings. He also sported a 1.98 ERA with four saves, while opposing hitters batted .218 against him.
The Dirtbags finished with a 37-17-1 overall record are were 20-4 in the Big West to earn the conference title.
Advocate was one of three Dirtbags to earn all-conference first-team nods.
The former MVLL ballplayer remembers his Little League days vividly.
“I came up in Majors when I was 9 with the Astros, where I played from 9 to 12,” he said. “Then I moved on.”
Advocate said he thinks his team won the Tournament of Champions by going undefeated.
When asked if he dreamed as a Little League player that he would be where he is now, Advocate laughed, “I guess a dream would be about all it was.
“I remember even in junior high, high school at that level, talking about this guy or that guy, who went on to play Division I baseball,” Advocate said. “It was kind of like such a far off deal that, you know what I mean, something that really was just a dream. Maybe it wasn’t attainable.
“A lot of shoot for maybe a junior college here, or this or that, (but) to be at this level on a team that’s been in the top 10 in most rankings?
“And knocked off teams like North Carolina at their place, and being from Arizona to play Arizona State at their place it really is a dream come true, I guess.”
The Tar Heels will enter this season’s postseason tourney as the nation’s No. 4-ranked team, and the Dirtbags go into the postseason as the nation’s No. 9-ranked squad, according to the Associated Press’ final regular-season poll released on Monday.
When asked if he had such dreams in high school, Advocate said, “Abosultely not. I remember distinctly we went to Solome my senior year,” Advoate said. “I was talking to (former River Valley head coach Aaron) LaCasse and we heard some rumors that a team had someone going to a Division I college, and me and Aaron LaCasse were kind of talking and he was saying like, ‘I just don’t see it.’ He wasn’t saying anything negative by any means. He said, ‘As good as your are, you aren’t even good enough to be a Division I guy.’
“So, even at that point, as good as I had done that senior season and junior season, it was still something we saw that was beyond our reach.”
After all of these seasons of climbing the baseball ladder, one thing has remained the same: Advocate remains as humble now as he was at 9.