11 Jul

star power

American League All-Star DH Corey Dickerson, in an interview on MLB Network on Monday, didn’t offer up a very complex analysis of his resurgent 2017 season. “I gotta be me,” he said. “Be the hitter I am.” Dickerson, the McComb native and Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College alumnus, is batting .312 (.355 on-base percentage) with 17 homers in 85 games in his second season with Tampa Bay. He hit 24 bombs in 2016 but batted just .245 (.293 OBP). A .299 hitter in three years in Colorado and a .321 hitter in the minors, Dickerson said it was the first time in his career that he had struggled at the plate: “I was searching, didn’t know who I was.” He got fitter in the off-season and made subtle changes to his free-swinging approach. He appears to be Corey Dickerson again – and that’s a good thing. He’ll bat seventh for the AL tonight at Marlins Park in Miami. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart bats ninth and plays shortstop for the NL. … Putting the best players in the game on the field at one time won’t necessarily produce a great game. Baseball doesn’t work that way. But the All-Star Game has produced its share of drama. This year marks the 10th anniversary of one such game, and a couple of Mississippians were involved. Flash to 2007 and San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The National League scored two runs in the ninth to make it a 5-4 game and had the bases loaded when Aaron Rowand popped out against Francisco Rodriguez to end it. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young got a one-out hit for the NL in that final inning and scored on Alfonso Soriano’s home run. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless eighth for the American League, preserving the 5-2 lead, but yielded to J.J. Putz (who was followed by Rodriguez) in the ninth. Holmes Community College alum Roy Oswalt of Weir was on the NL roster but didn’t get in the game. … Other All-Star anniversaries of note: Forty years ago, at Yankee Stadium, Mississippi native Dave Parker, batting third for the NL, singled and scored as part of a four-run first inning against Jim Palmer that carried the Senior Circuit to a 7-5 win. That was one of Parker’s seven All-Star game appearances. … Seventy years ago, Pascagoula’s Harry “The Hat” Walker, then with Philadelphia, batted leadoff for the NL and went 0-for-2 in a 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Walker made two All-Star Games during an 11-year career. … Eighty years ago, in Griffith Stadium in Washington, adopted Mississippian Dizzy Dean suffered a broken toe when struck by a line drive off the bat of Earl Averill. After the All-Star Game (in which he took the loss), Dean tried to pitch through the injury, hurt his arm and hastened the end of his brilliant career. Ellisville’s Buddy Myer was on the NL team that year but didn’t play, and Gulfport native Gee Walker, selected as a starter for the NL, couldn’t play because of injury.

30 Jun

stuff

Ole Miss product Zack Cozart, eligible to come off the disabled list (thigh strain) on Wednesday for Cincinnati, could be activated today, according to reports. The Reds host the Chicago Cubs this weekend at Great American Ballpark. Cozart is batting .320 with nine homers and 33 RBIs and led the voting for National League All-Star shortstop at last look. The rosters will be announced on Sunday on ESPN. … McComb native and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson was leading the vote for American League DH in the most recently released results. He is batting .330 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay. … Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High standout, was passed by Trea Turner for the MLB stolen base lead on Thursday, but with Turner now on the disabled list (broken wrist), Hamilton is the leading active thief with 33 bags. Turner has 35, Miami’s Dee Gordon 29. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run in 13 days on Thursday, helping San Diego beat Atlanta. Renfroe has 16 homers – a record for a Padres rookie before the All-Star break – though he is batting just .225. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. He could return to the Braves – at third base – next week. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. M-Braves alum Johan Camargo has played fairly well at third for Atlanta and is batting .293 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 31 games all told. … Current M-Braves Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna have been chosen for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 9 in Miami. Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, now in Triple-A, is also on the World roster. … Jake Mangum is off to a sizzling start in the Cape Cod League. The MSU star out of Jackson Prep is batting .359 with hits in nine of the 10 games he has played for Hyannis. Mangum had two hits in each of his first five games in the summer league. He was drafted in the 30th round by the New York Yankees as an eligible sophomore but is expected to return to Starkville for the 2018 season. … Brandon’s John “J.T.” Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray have been participating in the Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. They are among the 80 prep players invited to the USA Baseball complex to compete for spots on the Under-18 National Team.

19 Jun

still the one

It’s really not a fair fight. Zack Cozart plays in the 65th biggest city in the country, Cincinnati. Corey Seager plays in Los Angeles, No. 2 on that list, Addison Russell in Chicago, No. 3. And yet, former Ole Miss standout Cozart still leads the fan voting for National League All-Star shortstop by a decent margin. Yes, Reds fans are very passionate, and yes, Cozart is having a big year — .320, nine homers, 32 RBIs – but one would think the big-market boys would have a substantial built-in edge. Nevertheless, Cozart, who’s never made the All-Star Game, leads Seager by more than 300,000 votes and Russell – last year’s fan vote winner — by almost 500,000. All the news wasn’t good for Cozart on Monday: He went on the 10-day disabled list with a quad strain.

06 Jun

star gazing

Don’t look now, but ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart has climbed into the top two at shortstop in the National League All-Star voting. Cozart, batting .348 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs for Cincinnati, trails the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager and is just ahead of the Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell. Cozart, in his seventh big league season, has never made the All-Star Game. He said it was “a little shocking” to pass Russell, who is buoyed by Cubs fever. Cozart leads NL shortstops in most offensive categories and is also tops in Defensive Runs Saved. He went 2-for-4 on Monday night against St. Louis – extending his on-base streak to 27 games – and was in the middle of a game-winning four-run rally in the seventh inning. The Reds (26-30) are battling to stay afloat in the NL Central. P.S. Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Brett Phillips was 1-for-3 with an outfield assist (and an error) in his MLB debut for Milwaukee. Phillips is the 12th Shuckers alum to make the majors, a list that includes Orlando Arcia, Jacob Barnes and Yadiel Rivera.

30 May

star power

Much can and will happen between now and the time the All-Star Game rosters are finalized in mid-July. But barring some calamity, Corey Dickerson will be in Miami for the Midsummer Classic on July 11. The McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star is batting .345 with 12 homers, 25 RBIs and 38 runs in 50 games for Tampa Bay. The lefty-hitting outfielder/DH leads the American League in hits with 70. After a lackluster first season with the Rays, he has erupted in Year 2. “Hitting to all fields has probably been as important as anything,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Dickerson in a Tampa Bay Times story. If Dickerson makes the All-Star Game, he would be just the second Mississippi native to do so in the last 10 years. Brian Dozier (Tupelo/Fulton) got in as an injury replacement pick – a deserving one — in 2015. For the record, Mississippi hasn’t produced an abundance of All-Stars in recent times, though there have been a few of note. Roy Oswalt (Kosciusko/Weir) made three straight appearances in the game from 2005-07. Ellis Burks (Vicksburg) appeared in two, 1990 and 1996. Dave Parker (Calhoun City/Grenada) made seven, the last in 1990. Greenville native Frank White was a five-time All-Star, making his last appearance in 1986. George Scott, also from Greenville, made three Classics, his final one coming in 1977, and Chet Lemon (Jackson) got the call three times, as well, the last in 1984.

13 Jul

coast to coast …

A visit to Hawaii is one thing, but a trip to the MLB All-Star Game, your first as a player, is a different level of paradise. After learning he had made the National League team as an injury replacement, former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz was forced to cancel a few plans he had made for the break. “My fiance and I were supposed to go to Hawaii to plan our wedding, but … whatever,” he told mlb.com, reportedly with a laugh. “It was a good excuse.” Pomeranz, now with San Diego, pitched a scoreless fourth inning in the NL’s 4-2 loss Tuesday night at Petco Park. He retired Salvador Perez, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout sandwiched around a Jackie Bradley single. “It’s pretty special to have your first one (All-Star Game) anywhere, but even more so here,” he said after the game, played before a crowd of 42,386. Pomeranz, in his first season with the Padres, has an 8-7 record and a 2.47 ERA in 17 starts with 115 punchouts. … In another televised game on Tuesday, played on the Atlantic coast before a much smaller crowd, Southern Miss’ Kirk McCarty delivered a gem for Orleans of the Cape Cod League. The left-hander tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings against Falmouth, allowing just three hits with five walks and five strikeouts. He got a no-decision but lowered his ERA to 1.98 in five games in the college summer league. His Firebirds won the game 2-1 (on a walk-off homer) before 1,381 at Eldredge Park in Orleans, Mass. … And on yet another coast, the Gulf, Lucas Sims of the Mississippi Braves notched his first Southern League win of the year Tuesday with a strong outing at Mobile. Sims worked 6 2/3 and yielded one run on six hits and two walks with seven K’s in a 2-1 victory before an announced 718 at Hank Aaron Stadium. Sims, Atlanta’s top pick in the 2012 draft and No. 10 prospect, started the season with the M-Braves before getting a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he went 2-6, 7.56 and got sent back on June 17. He is 1-2, 2.95 in seven starts for the M-Braves.

11 Jul

all-star flashbacks

Seventy years ago, in Boston’s Fenway Park, Waynesboro native Claude Passeau of the Chicago Cubs received the considerable honor of starting for the National League in the All-Star Game. Five years earlier, at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, in his first All-Star outing, Passeau had yielded six hits and five runs over 2 2/3 innings, including the famous walk-off home run by Ted Williams. In the 1946 game, the last of Passeau’s four All-Star appearances, he pitched better, allowing just two hits over three innings. But one of those hits was a two-run homer by Charlie Keller, which propelled the Americans to a 12-0 victory. Passeau again took the loss. Thirty years ago, in the 1986 Midsummer Classic at the Astrodome in Houston, Greenville’s Frank White hit a home run for the AL squad (off former Jackson Mets star Mike Scott of the Astros) in a 3-2 win over the Nationals. Grenada’s Dave Parker and Jackson native Chris Brown each went 1-for-2 for the NL. In the 1996 game, Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks had a hit in two trips as the NL took a 6-0 win at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. And 10 years ago, Weir’s Roy Oswalt made the second of his three All-Star Game appearances, working a 1-2-3 third inning in a game the NL would lose, 3-2, at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. … The last time the All-Star Game was played in San Diego, in 1992 at Jack Murphy Stadium, former Mississippi State star Will Clark hit a three-run homer off former Jackson Mets ace Rick Aguilera. But it wasn’t enough for the Nationals, who lost 13-6 to the Ken Griffey Jr.-led AL team. P.S. In Fayetteville, N.C., tonight, Ole Miss’ Brady Feigl will start in the Coastal Plain League All-Star Game. Feigl, who got some freshman All-America notice as a reliever this past season, is 2-1 with a 1.90 ERA as a starter for Asheboro in the college summer league. … Ex-UM star Alex Presley went 1-for-3 on Sunday in a Class A-level game in the Detroit system. Presley elected free agency after being designated for assignment last month by Milwaukee. On a minor league contract with Detroit, he’ll likely be in Triple-A Toledo soon.