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Cal Poly baseball players don’t often deny an offer from the Boston Red Sox. That is, unless they’re senior third baseman Jimmy Allen, who turned down a 23rd-round selection from one of the most famed MLB teams in the hopes of capping off a record-breaking collegiate career with a deep postseason run with Cal Poly.
“I came back here this year because I knew the team had so much potential,” Allen said.
Regardless of how well the Mustangs do in their upcoming NCAA Regional, Cal Poly’s all-time hits leader has already cemented himself as one of the most lethal offensive threats in program history. But one would never know it from talking to him.
“I honestly had no idea about the hits record until a week ago,” Allen said. “When people first meet me I would say I am kind of shy at first … and maybe a little goofy.”
Allen’s laid-back attitude fits in well as part of a team that has cited its chemistry as the reason for this year’s successes.
Junior reliever Reed Reilly referred to Allen as the “quiet leader of the team,” while fellow junior reliever Danny Zandona echoed his sentiment, saying “(Jimmy) leads by example.”
A graduate of Rancho Buena Vista High School in San Diego County, Allen was highly recruited by West Coast baseball powerhouses such as Arizona State, Pepperdine and USC, but he always knew he would end up playing at Baggett Stadium. Even after the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim came knocking when they drafted him in the 39th round of the 2010 draft, Allen still had his eyes set on attending Cal Poly.
“My mom and sister went here, and my brother-in-law played baseball here for (Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee), so I went to a lot of games here as a kid,” Allen said. “If I got hurt or something and baseball didn’t work out, I would still be happy here.”
For now, Allen is content carving up opposing Big West pitchers. The senior is batting .301 after playing in all 55 of the team’s regular season games. In the season’s final series against Cal State Northridge, Allen hit three home runs on his way to earning Big West Conference Field Player of the Week honors.
“He is putting up good numbers on a very good offensive team and has been a component in a lineup that has produced for the majority of the season,” Lee said.
Allen has been a major contributor since his first year at Cal Poly. While a steep learning curve led to a .261 average in his freshman year, the then-left fielder was keen on improving in his sophomore campaign. A switch to third base coupled with an improved presence at the plate led to the kind of offensive numbers that get attention from pro scouts. Allen led the Big West with 20 doubles and sported a .345 batting average, ninth best in one of the nation’s top baseball conferences.
A productive junior year saw Allen bat .299, while starting in every one of the team’s 59 games. But it was when the team needed him most, battling against some of the nation’s preeminent programs in the Los Angeles Regional, that Allen played some of the best ball of his career. The third baseman caught fire, collecting eight hits in 13 at-bats.
But the hot streak came in a losing effort. As this year’s returning players know all too well, Cal Poly lost a heartbreaker against UCLA in the second game of the regional. The Bruins eventually won the national championship, while the Mustangs were sent packing.
While Allen’s play late in the season was notable, the former John Orton Golden Glove winner was not intent on basking in the attention, even if that meant turning down a predictably hefty signing bonus from the Red Sox. Throw in the chance of injury or diminished performance on the field and Allen’s decision to stay in school becomes that much more admirable, according to Reilly.
“For him to come back and do what he has done, just like last year, it’s awesome,” Reilly said.
With Allen heating up late in the season again, the road to Omaha and the College World Series is looking more and more welcoming. The senior went 6 for 14 against Cal State Northridge to clinch the Big West title two weeks ago. But Allen’s consistency this season and during the past three years is not surprising to anyone around the team.
“He goes about his business every day for four years,” Lee said. “At the end of it all, he is the career leader in hits, he is up there in a few other offensive categories. He has been a steady influence on our entire team.”
Allen is not the type of player who demands attention. He doesn’t wow with great power or speed, but what he lacks in flashiness, he makes up for in consistency — which is necessary for a team vying for a national title.
“I might be under the radar, but I am OK with that,” Allen said. “I don’t really want all the hype.