Dirks’ Journey To Major Leagues
Began Patrolling Center Field
For Blue Dragons
There was little doubt that Andy Dirks was a physically gifted athlete and potentially a tremendous baseball player.
As it turned out, the partnership between Dirks and Hutchinson Community College was mutually beneficial.
A Haven High School product, Dirks began honing his baseball skills for what became a major league career in a Blue Dragon uniform. And while Dirks was at HutchCC, the Blue Dragons reached new levels of success with back-to-back Jayhawk West championships, the program’s first Region VI title in 30 years and a first-ever appearance in the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
The former Detroit Tigers' player, Dirks was the first Blue Dragon baseball player or coach to be inducted into the Hutchinson Community College Quarterback Club Hall of Fame.
“It was a special group of guys,” said Dirks of the 2005 and 2006 Blue Dragon teams. “We had a bunch of local guys and some good out-of-state guys. It was a good mesh of guys and a lot of those guys will be my friends forever. We learned a lot together and we did a lot of things special together. I’ll never forget that.”
While Dirks had many memorable and clutch moments at Hutchinson, perhaps the singular moment which spoke to his desire to win for the Blue Dragons came in the first championship game of the 2005 Region VI Tournament. Facing elimination and a depleted pitching staff, Dirks stepped out of character as Hutch’s usual leadoff hitter, centerfielder and closer and made his first collegiate pitching start against the Garden City Broncbusters with the season on the line.
Dirks tossed 7 2-3 innings of gutsy baseball, striking out three in an 8-6 victory which forced a second championship game. One night later, the Blue Dragons finished off the comeback with an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over the Busters.
“We were running out of pitching because we had to come through the loser’s bracket,” Dirks said of his start against Garden City. “It was one of those things. I just went out there and it worked out for us.”
While at Hutchinson, Dirks’ two-year record was 82-35. The 2005 team finished in a four-way tie for the Jayhawk West championship and came back through the loser’s bracket to capture the program's first Region VI championship since 1975. One year later, the 2006 team won the conference outright, going 44-13. Dirks was first-team All-Jayhawk West and first-team all-Region VI as a sophomore.
The fleet-footed centerfielder had a .371 career batting average with 106 hits. His 41 career stolen bases were tied for seventh at the conclusion of his career.
His Blue Dragon statistical rankings at the end of his eligibility were: Games played – 103 (T11); batting average – .371 (T14); total hits – 106 (12th); runs scored – 96 (10th); RBIs – 79 (17th); doubles – 22 (T9); triples – 8 (T2); home runs – 13 (T8); total bases – 193 (13th); slugging percentage - .617 (15th); and extra-base hits – 43 (T11).
“Andy played with zero fear and that’s a special quality to have,” said Kyle Crookes, Dirks’ head coach at Hutchinson. “Andy Dirks worked on his game hard. When he came in, there was a lot of baseball for him to learn. He spent time learning it. He was courageous enough to make changes and that can be uncomfortable.”
After Hutchinson, Dirks went onto Wichita State, where he was a two-year starter for Gene Stephenson.
While with the Shockers, Dirks has gained plenty of national attention with his streak of reaching base safely in 73 consecutive games and his hitting streak of 29 games, which was the fourth-longest in Shocker history.
Dirks had a spectacular senior season in 2008 with the Shockers, hitting .399 (95 for 238) with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs this season. He was 26 of 33 in stolen bases. Dirks scored 82 runs and had 21 doubles, three triples. Dirks played in a pair of NCAA Super Regionals.
Dirks was selected by the Tigers in the eighth round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. At that time, Dirks was the highest-drafted Blue Dragon in program history.
Called up to the Tigers for the first time in 2011, Dirks was with the Tigers when they went to the World Series in 2012. In 297 games with the Tigers, Dirks was a .276 hitter with 268 total hits, 47 doubles, seven triples and 24 home runs. Dirks drove in 100 runs and scored 150 runs.
“It was one of the steps you have to take to keep improving your game,” Dirks said of playing at Hutchinson. “ I had a great time when I was there. I learned a lot of about baseball. Coach Crookes was great. I had great teammates. It was fun.”