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San Diego Traces
Many stars products of baseball 'Factory'
By Corey Brock / MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- It probably should come as no surprise that an alumnus of "The Factory" is involved in the 2008 playoffs, since "The Factory" is located in one of baseball's hotbeds of talent: San Diego County.

Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High, located north of San Diego, pitched for a school that was termed "The Factory" in Michael Lewis' book, "Moneyball."

Rancho Bernardo High has produced seven first-round Draft picks who have played for coach Sam Blalock, the uncle of former Rancho Bernardo standout Hank Blalock, the Rangers slugger who was a third-round pick in 1999.

Hamels, the left-handed ace of the Phillies, is just one connection San Diego has to the 2008 playoffs. A dreamy 2008 season for Hamels included a stop in San Diego on Aug. 17, when he allowed one run over eight innings for a 2-1 victory against the Padres, a team he grew up rooting for.

"I was extra excited to pitch in San Diego," Hamels said. "I was a big Padres fan growing up. And I had a lot of family and friends here. It's great they were able to see me in person and not just on TV. Any time you're pitching at home, you want to be as good as possible."

There are other notable individuals with ties to the San Diego area who were involved in the 2008 playoffs -- all the way from the playing field to the front office.

Boston reliever Justin Masterson honed his 97 mph fastball at San Diego State University, where his coach was none other than Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who runs the baseball program at his alma mater.

"I'm living the dream," the 23-year-old Masterson told MLB.com. "Just having any kind of opportunity, especially only two years into my professional career, I don't think I could ask for anything more."

Masterson certainly isn't the only Red Sox tie to San Diego. Before Theo Epstein was handed the keys to the team as general manager, he served in a variety of roles during his seven seasons with the Padres.

Epstein worked in the media relations department before becoming the assistant for baseball operations in 1998 and finally the director of baseball operations in 2000. He even managed to earn to earn his law degree from the University of San Diego Law School while working for the Padres.

Yes, baseball's ties to San Diego run deep and far -- all the way to Cooperstown.

Perhaps no name resonates as deeply with baseball's rich history in San Diego as that of Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who chased down fly balls for the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League before being dubbed "The Splendid Splinter."

There's former Yankees Graig Nettles, a San Diego native who isn't in the Hall of Fame but helped the Bronx Bombers win four pennants after manning the hot corner for San Diego State.

And, of course, there's Gwynn, Mr. Padre himself, who starred in baseball and basketball at San Diego State and played his entire 20-year Hall of Fame career with the Padres.

Yes, San Diego was a good place to start out for Hamels, Masterson, Epstein and Williams, and remains a good place to spend a lifetime, as it has been for Gwynn. 

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.