Sports

Long Beach State inducts 13 new members into Hall of Fame

Thursday evening was symbolic for Beach athletics. For the first time in six years, the event honored some of its best athletes and coaches to dawn the black and gold. The Long Beach Marriot was home to over 300 guests in attendance. Attendees included active and former coaches, donors and faculty.

“It’ll definitely be an annual event because it does such a great job of recognizing the history and the excellence of our athletics programs,” Bobby Smitheran, the executive director of athletics said. “It is also a way to engage the community and bring those two things together.”

The list of inductees was star-studded and among the biggest classes to ever be enshrined. With the ceremony being six years in the making.

“It’s wonderful to get together and celebrate and it gives us the opportunity to say again, thanks for coming to Cal State Long Beach. The students always represent the university very well,” Mike Walter said.

Former women’s volleyball coach Brian Gimmillaro headlined the list of inductees and was met with a standing ovation upon his arrival on stage by ceremony hosts JJ Fiddler and Mike Guardabascio, both raddling off his endless accomplishments at LBSU.

Former Long Beach State women's volleyball head coach Brian Gimmillaro (right) being interview the562.org co-founder Mike Guardabascio duting the Long Beach State Hall of Fame ceremony at the Long Beach Marriott.
Former Long Beach State women's volleyball head coach Brian Gimmillaro (right) being interviewed the562.org co-founder Mike Guardabascio during the Long Beach State Hall of Fame ceremony at the Long Beach Marriott. Photo credit: Naoki Gima

“The highlight was simply the opportunity to work at this university, with the people I worked with and with the community I was surrounded by. It was an inclusive structure,” Gimmillaro said. “I have been in a lot of cities in Southern California, but there’s only one community I know, and that’s Long Beach.”

In over 30 years as head coach, Gimmillaro led The Beach to three national championships in 1989, 1993 and 1998. The 1998 squad was the first-ever women’s volleyball team in NCAA history to go undefeated at 36-0.

Another notable name amongst the class of 2024 was Major League Baseball all-star and former Dirtbag Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets.

McNeil was one of the few members who could not attend but sent a video message thanking Long Beach State for the honor. His shoutout to his wife whom he met at the Parkside dorms his freshman year was one of the instances the entire room filled with laughter.

Though most of the inductees find themselves in retirement from their respective sports, the competitive spirit is not far gone. In particular, former softball pitcher Erin Jones-Wesley.

One of the most dominant pitchers in school history, she currently sits atop career wins and strikeouts. Jones-Wesley was asked how many innings she could throw right now, to which she responded, “I don’t know. Can we go play?”

“I have a ball, glove and cleats in my car still and have not played a softball game in a little close to a decade,” Jones-Wesley said.

For LBSU big man T.J. Robinson the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and double-doubles, it was a long-awaited reunion and a time to catch up with his past teammates and mentors.

“I’m privileged, it’s been a long time coming. It’s been 14 years, so to have this honor to know my hard work is going into something,” Robinson said. “It is an honor to be back in Long Beach, as soon as I touched down I felt at home.”

The finale was certainly grand, with the second of two standing ovations going to former athletic director, Cindy Masner. She would leave one of the most everlasting impacts still felt at The Beach today during her time as both a student-athlete and her two separate tenures as an athletic director.

“Watching student-athletes grow over time is amazing. It’s like having 350 children every year but don’t have to worry about some things,” Masner said. “I don’t have to pay their bills or any of that stuff. So that was the fun part.”

The rest of the class was highlighted by the 1964 baseball team, the 1986-87 women’s basketball team, Taylor Crabb, Shawna Gordon, Brent Gray, Brittany Hochevar, Andrea Lynch and Gary Patterson.

The night will forever be remembered and synonymous with the athletes, coaches and faculty who have created unforgettable legacies that will inspire future generations that represent Long Beach State.

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