For the fifth straight year, at least one Mississippi college product will be at the MLB All-Star Game. The honor tonight in Cleveland belongs to Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler who was named as a replacement to the National League pitching staff. He follows Mitch Moreland (2018), Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson (2017), Drew Pomeranz (2016) and Brian Dozier and Jonathan Papelbon (2015) as recent All-Stars out of Magnolia State schools. Woodruff has emerged as Milwaukee’s ace this season, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.67 ERA. The Brewers, second in the NL Central, are 14-4 in his starts. Woodruff found out at a team meeting on Saturday that he would be taking teammate Josh Hader’s spot in the 90th Midsummer Classic. Woodruff called it “pretty cool.” “Sitting here now and becoming an All-Star was something I didn’t think of. The first couple of years, you have a lot of times where you feel like, ‘Man, this game is tough,’” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Woodruff came out of State as a raw prospect in 2014, drafted in the 11th round by the Brewers after putting up a 5.95 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 34 walks in 56 innings over two years in Starkville. He developed quickly. By 2016 he was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year, and he debuted in The Show in 2017. Woodruff helped the Brewers reach the NL Championship Series last fall, getting the win and homering (off Clayton Kershaw) in Game 1. P.S. For the record, DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan won the High School Home Run Derby in Cleveland on Monday night. … This is the sixth All-Star Game in Cleveland, which memorably hosted the 1981 game that ended the player strike. On Aug. 9 at old Municipal Stadium, Grenada native Dave Parker hit the only home run in his six All-Star Game appearances. Two years earlier, in the ’79 All-Star Game at Seattle, Parker won MVP honors when he cut down runners at third and home with laser throws from right field and drove in a run for the victorious NL.
At an emotional press conference in Cleveland on Monday, new Delta State coach Rodney Batts made a resounding statement about his plans for the team: “It’s gonna be no different. I am a product of this program.” Batts played at DSU for Bill Marchant, who played for Boo Ferriss, the patriarch of the proud program. Batts coached at DSU under Mike Kinnison, who played for Ferriss. Batts is just the fourth coach at DSU in the last 57 years. “That kind of stability has really benefitted our program,” Kinnison said while introducing Batts, who spent the previous five years as head coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Kinnison, now the DSU athletic director, said he wanted if at all possible to stay within the DSU coaching tree in hiring his replacement. He said Batts is “the right choice at the right time” as he symbolically turned over the keys to program. “I’m here because of you,” Batts said with a nod to Kinnison. Batts spent 19 years at DSU as a player, grad assistant, volunteer assistant and full-time assistant. He said through tears Monday that the DSU campus was home, and he knew he had made the right decision to come back when scores of former Statesmen players began texting him after the news broke last week. DSU, one of the strongest NCAA Division II programs in the country, owns a national championship – Batts was an assistant under Kinnison during that 2004 season – and expects to contend for another every year. Said Batts: “I understand the challenge. I understand what it takes.”