Long before he started working at the Shell Martinez Refinery in 1989 as a contractor, Jim Flores had another career – as a shortstop who started racking up honors for his play at Alhambra High and then was in top form at Fresno State before going on to play pro ball in the Minnesota Twins organization.
On Feb. 10, Flores will be honored by his alma mater when he is inducted into the Fresno State Baseball Wall of Fame, a distinction that the soft-spoken Flores, who could now jokingly be termed the Health and Safety shortshop, called “very cool.”
“Fresno State has such a great baseball tradition, and over the years they have had so many outstanding players,” Flores said. “I’m truly humbled and extremely honored to be considered and accepted into that group of players. I have such great memories from my experience at Fresno State.”
Flores, who played at Fresno State from 1979 to 1981, hit .303 and was named the 1979 All National College Baseball Association shortstop in his first season. He sat out the second season, but returned in 1981 and started all 65 games at shortstop for the Bulldogs, hitting .325 and scoring 71 runs with 34 RBIs.
He earned the 1981 Fresno State Most Valuable Player Award, the Fresno State Coaches Award and Fresno State Glove Award, as well as being named to the 1981 All NCBA First Team at shortstop. He still holds the college’s finest single-season fielding record for a shortstop, ranking first in total chances and putouts, and tied for first in assists.
In a press release from the college, former baseball coach Bob Bennett says, “Jim Flores was one of the best shortstops we’ve had. He was a solid player and a very good hitter. After he finished playing, he coached with us for a couple years, working with both the varsity and JV teams. He was just a good guy and a very, very consistent and outstanding player. He’s just as solid a person as you could be.”
Flores’ induction into the 2011 Wall of Fame Class will take place at the 25th annual Double Play dinner this Friday night. He is taking his wife, Julie, along with his parents and a very good friend. His old friend, Ray O’Canto – the MC of the event and the left fielder on his Bulldogs team – will sit at their table.
Flores’ baseball accolades began long before he enrolled at Fresno State. He played at Alhambra High, where he earned First Team All Foothill Athletic League honors at shortstop all four years in addition to being named an All Norcal All Star in 1975 and 1976. He was also named the East Bay Outstanding Baseball Player in 1976.
He then played at Diablo Valley College, where he was named to the All Golden Gate Conference and All Northern California First Teams in 1977 at second base and 1978 at shortstop.
His junior college career was capped when he hit a dramatic grand slam on a 3-2 count in the 9th inning to lead DVC over Cerritos, 11-10, in the 1977 state championship game. He was inducted into the DVC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
After graduating from Fresno State in 1981, Flores played three seasons in the Minnesota Twins organization, playing in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc., Orlando, Fla., Visalia, Calif., and then Orlando again. His coaching at Fresno State followed his pro career, but after leaving Frenso, he did not return to the field.
Flores, a Bay Area native and a resident of Concord, is a fan of the area’s teams, and is partial to the San Francisco Giants because he has friends, including former players, who are currently working for that team.
Flores started working at Shell as a contractor in 1989 and became an operator in 1994. He says that there are many things from his athletic career that have helped him at Shell.
“The importance of team work, persistence toward a common goal and acceptance that hard work is essential because nothing worth achieving is easy,” Flores said. “At Fresno State in particular, I was taught that finding a way to stay the course when times are difficult is a key to be the best.
“We won two championships when I was there, and we didn’t do it without having our share of difficulties. I had a coach in Fresno who used to work us until we were physically exhausted, and although it was painful at times, what I learned is that when I think I’ve given all I can, if I look inside myself, I can usually find I have more.”