30 Oct

a memorable moment

Back in 1986, the New York Mets faced a situation similar to the one they face today: Down 0-2 entering Game 3 of the World Series. But while the current club gets Game 3 against Kansas City at its own Citi Field, the ’86 Mets were on the road, at Fenway Park. And one could argue that their comeback in the series was fueled by the outcome of the very first at-bat on Oct. 21, 1986. Lenny Dykstra, the former Jackson Mets star, belted a home run against Boston’s Oil Can Boyd, the Meridian native and Jackson State alum. The Mets would score three more times in the first inning en route to a 7-1 victory. Boyd, in the only World Series appearance of his career, battled for six more innings but wound up with an ugly line: nine hits, a walk, six runs, all earned. (Boyd would be passed over for a possible Game 7 start when a rain delay enabled the Red Sox to roll out Bruce Hurst again. Hurst pitched OK, but the Sox bullpen faltered in the 8-5 loss.) Dykstra went 4-for-5 in Game 3 and scored twice. For all of his faults – and the list seems to keep growing – “Nails” was a money player. He batted .321 in 32 postseason games (with the Mets and Philadelphia), with 10 homers, 19 RBIs and 27 runs.

28 Oct

there and here

Though you won’t find his name on the top prospect charts, former Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier would seem to be a player on the rise. Currently playing in the talent-laded Arizona Fall League, the left-handed hitting shortstop is hitting .333 (8-for-24) for Glendale. Batting leading on Tuesday, he went 2-for-3 with an RBI, two runs and a steal. Frazier, 23, hit .324 at Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh’s system this season, his third pro campaign, and made the Eastern League’s midseason All-Star Game. He is at .291 for his career with a .353 on-base percentage. … Richton High product JaCoby Jones, a shortstop prospect in Detroit’s system, has been playing some third base in the AFL. “I love short,” Jones told the Detroit Free Press. “I played there all my life … . But if third base is where my future’s at, I’ll start getting better at it.” The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jones is batting .364 to date for Scottsdale. … Of Atlanta’s top 10 prospects on Baseball America’s recently revealed chart, it’s possible none will be in Pearl to start the 2016 season. No. 1 Hector Olivera already has made the big league club, three of the others were in low Class A in 2015 and three more were just drafted in June. (One of those, Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, checks in at No. 5 after a strong debut season at the lowest levels of the system.) Max Fried pitched in low A in 2014 and missed all of last season with an injury; it seems unlikely the Braves would start him in Double-A. Mallex Smith opened 2015 in Mississippi but finished at Triple-A Gwinnett, and Lucas Sims went 4-2, 3.21 for the M-Braves and is a candidate to be promoted next spring. However, there could be an influx of talent to Mississippi from just outside the BA top 10: Johan Camargo, Connor Lien, Dustin Peterson and Rob Whalen, to name a few. All played at high A Carolina last season. … Former Jackson Generals pitching coach Jim Hickey has signed an extension with Tampa Bay to remain the Rays’ pitching coach through 2018. He has been with the club since 2007. … Ex-Jackson Mets star Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with Texas after three years as hitting coach, is expected to land another job in the big leagues sometime soon. In a published report, Magadan said he would like to get closer to his Florida home. … East Central Community College product Marcus Thames has been mentioned as a candidate for hitting coach with the New York Yankees. He was the Triple-A hitting coach in their system in 2015. The Yanks are one of four teams Thames played for in his 10-year MLB career.

27 Oct

rarin’ to go …

Jarrod Dyson must be champing at the bit. The McComb native and Southwest Mississippi Community College product, one of Kansas City’s speed specialists, made one brief appearance in the American League Championship Series. He stole two bases in two attempts in the division series but didn’t have a big impact. Dyson played in five games in the 2014 World Series but didn’t get a chance to run on the big stage. While Dyson’s playing time decreased this season, he still swiped 26 bags – second on the team — and scored 31 runs in 90 games. (Plus, he’s a plus-defender in the outfield.) Dyson has 146 steals in 169 tries in his MLB career, an 86.4 percent success rate. Kauffman Stadium buzzes when Dyson, one of the longest-tenured Royals (50th round pick, 2006), comes in as a pinch runner. At some point in this World Series, Ned Yost will have a need for Dyson’s speed. Maybe we see him tonight in Game 1 against the New York Mets, who pride themselves on controlling baserunners. It’s a safe bet that Dyson is ready to do some running.

26 Oct

beyond the goats

The last time – the only time, actually — the Kansas City Royals won a World Series, Greenville native Frank White played a big role for the champs. That was 1985. The last time the New York Mets won a World Series, a host of ex-Jackson Mets had a hand in claiming the ring. That was 1986. Of course, there are famous “goats” associated with both of those Series, umpire Don Denkinger for his missed call in Game 6 in ’85 and Boston first baseman Bill Buckner for his mishandled grounder in Game 6 in ’86. But remembering those Series for the so-called goats does a disservice to the players who shined in those seven-game Fall Classics. White, a five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner over his 18 seasons, batted .250 with a homer, six RBIs and four runs for the Royals in the ’85 Series against St. Louis. In the ’86 Series, the second of the two titles won by the Mets, Wally Backman hit .333 with four runs, Lenny Dykstra batted .296 with two homers, Mookie Wilson hit .269 with three runs, Jesse Orosco pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and Roger McDowell and Rick Aguilera botch notched wins. All these years later, mention the World Series of 1985 or 1986, and the names of Denkinger and Buckner will come up. That’s understandable, perhaps, but those two names shouldn’t be all we remember.

23 Oct

campus notes

Circle the dates of March 6, April 22-24 and, most notably, May 13-15. Those are the dates when new Auburn coach Butch Thompson will send his Tigers out against Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2016. Aberdeen native and ex-Itawamba Community College star Thompson, a popular and well-respected assistant coach at State the previous seven seasons, has taken the reins on the Plains, where he was an assistant from 2006-08. Auburn will play USM in a tournament in Pensacola, Fla., in March, visit Oxford to play Ole Miss in April and host State in May in the next-to-last SEC weekend. … Ole Miss’ Will Golsan went on a tear in the Cal Ripken Baseball League playoffs back in the summer, batting .438 with six runs in five games en route to winning the championship. The sophomore out of New Hope High has had his moments during the Rebels’ fall ball scrimmages, as well, registering a four-hit game last weekend. UM has two more scrimmages slated for this weekend. … Southern Miss will begin its 5-game Fall World Series on Tuesday at Taylor Park. The last game is set for Nov. 3, which will conclude fall ball for the Golden Eagles. Senior pitchers Luke Lowery and Cody Livingston will manage the two squads in the World Series. … Jacob Barfield, a sophomore transfer from Wharton County (Texas) Junior College, put an exclamation point on Mississippi State’s Bulldog World Series with a three-run, last-inning home run for the Grays on Wednesday night. Cole Gordon homered for the Maroon team, which won the 5-game series. … Delta State concluded fall ball last weekend with the final two games of its Green and White Series. Compiling three-hit games were Luke Stanley, Erick Santiago and Josh Peden, while Westin Stringer, Itawamba CC transfer Brady Chambley and Dalton Moats, a former Coastal Carolina standout, delivered stout pitching performances.

23 Oct

here and there

Former Picayune High star T.J. House, whose 2015 season with Cleveland was derailed by arm problems, is doing a rehab assignment with Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League. Left-hander House, 25, who last pitched on June 8, worked a spiffy 1-2-3 inning on Thursday, throwing eight pitches. House went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA for the Indians in 2014 and made the rotation in spring training this year. After four starts, and with an 0-4 record and a 13.15 ERA, he went on the disabled list and then was sent to the minors. He was 0-2, 3.38 in five minor league appearances before being shut down. House’s teammates on the AFL Scorpions include Richton High product JaCoby Jones (Detroit) and Ole Miss alum Stuart Turner (Minnesota), who were in the lineup on Thursday – and went a combined 0-for-8 in a 7-6 loss to Surprise. … Mississippi State product Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh) is 4-for-6 with three walks in two games for Glendale in the AFL. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz had shoulder surgery on Thursday. The Oakland A’s left-hander shifted from the rotation to the bullpen last season, putting up a 2.61 ERA in 44 relief appearances after posting a 4.63 ERA in nine starts. His 2016 role reportedly is still undecided.

22 Oct

remembering red

On this date in 1992, Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber, a Columbus native, died at the age of 84. Barber called major league games on the radio for 33 years, including stints with the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. Best known for his many pet phrases – “sittin’ in the catbird seat,” “tearin’ up the pea patch,” “tied up in a croker sack” — Barber also broadcast Jackie Robinson’s historic debut season with the Dodgers in 1947. Barber was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978. P.S. The Jackson Mets, who produced a boatload of big league talent in their time, left Mississippi in 1990, 10 years before the New York Mets made their last World Series appearance. For the record, there was a JaxMets alumnus on the New York club in 2000. Left-hander Rich Rodriguez, who played in Jackson in 1986 and ’88, appeared in 37 games that season but was not on the postseason roster. Drafted by the Mets in 1984, he first made the big leagues in 1990 with San Diego, one of eight clubs he pitched for. Also with the ’00 Mets was ex-Jackson Generals star Melvin Mora, who did play in the Series loss to the Yankees. … Former JaxMets standout Ron Gardenhire has interviewed for Washington’s managerial job. He also interviewed in San Diego. Gardenhire won over 1,000 games and directed six playoff teams in a 13-year stint as Minnesota manager.