16 Nov

he’s a winner

Corey Dickerson won his first Gold Glove earlier this month. That was sort of icing on the cake for the McComb native, who’s best known for his hitting and certainly did not disappoint in that phase of the game for Pittsburgh in 2018. In his first season with the Pirates, after strangely being cut loose by Tampa Bay, Dickerson batted .300 with a .330 on-base percentage. The Meridian Community College product hit 13 homers, 35 doubles and seven triples, drove in 55 runs, scored 65 and even stole eight bases. He helped keep the Pirates in playoff contention late into the season. Even after they fell off that pace, the lefty-hitting left fielder continued to rake, batting .385 over his last 15 games. It was an outstanding season by any measure and easily worthy of the 2018 Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian (native or college alum) in the majors. There were some other noteworthy efforts: Tim Anderson had a 20-homer/20-steal season; Mitch Moreland had a good first half and made the All-Star Game; Hunter Renfroe enjoyed a late-season power surge. Dickerson was just better across the board. … It’s the second time Dickerson has earned the Cool Papa Bell Award, which honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.

25 Oct

gold rush

This could be the year. Billy Hamilton, for all the jaw-dropping plays he has made in center field these last five years, has not won a Gold Glove. The Taylorsville native and Cincinnati center fielder is among the finalists this year, as are Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson and former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland. The nine winners from each of the two leagues will be announced on Nov. 4. The dash-fast Hamilton made 348 putouts this season – suffice it to say that’s a lot – registered 12 assists and committed just two errors. Dickerson, who played left field for Pittsburgh, also had an excellent year with the glove, making just one error with seven assists. Moreland, Boston’s first baseman, won a Gold Glove with Texas in 2016; he made two errors this year while handling 809 chances. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier took gold at second base with Minnesota in 2017 but did not make the list of finalists this year. Greenville natives Frank White and George Scott own the most Gold Gloves among Mississippians with eight apiece. White racked up his at second base with Kansas City back in the 1970s and ’80s. Scott earned his as a first baseman with Boston and Milwaukee in the ’60s and ’70s.

19 Aug

making a move?

In the midst of a little slump that has knocked him off the pace in the National League batting average race, Corey Dickerson may have gotten a second wind. The former Meridian Community College star from McComb went 3-for-3 for Pittsburgh on Saturday, kicking his average up to .307. The current leader in NL hitting is Freddie Freeman, the ex-Mississippi Braves star who’s at .320. Dickerson was around the top with a .318 mark in late July when he went on the 10-day disabled list with a minor injury. He has scuffled since coming back, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn’t concerned about his leadoff batter. “I love the way he shows up every day,” the former Jackson Mets manager told mlb.com. “He always feels that today’s the day … .” While known more for his power (101 career home runs), the 29-year-old Dickerson is a .284 career hitter; his best season was a .312 with Colorado in 2014. If he gets it going again down the stretch this year, he could join Buddy Myer (1935), Harry Walker (1947) and Dave Parker (1977 and ’78) as the only Mississippi-born players to win a batting title. … The biggest hit by a Pirate on Saturday was delivered by ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, whose RBI single in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs ended a 24-inning scoreless streak for Pittsburgh. The Pirates (62-62) went on to win 3-1 to snap a five-game losing skid that has knocked them off the pace in the NL playoff race.

23 Jul

powering up

The suddenly surging Pittsburgh Pirates, the hottest team in baseball, are getting a lot of their juice from Corey Dickerson. The ex-Meridian Community College standout homered for the fourth straight game on Sunday as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-2 to extend their winning streak to nine games. Don’t look now, but the Bucs, under former Jackson Mets manager Clint Hurdle, are 51-49 and back in the wild card picture in the National League. Dickerson, once thought to be a possible trade chip, may now be sticking around. An All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2017 before being inexplicably cut loose by the Rays, Dickerson is batting .315 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the Pirates. He’s been a steady hitter all season but through the first three months had not shown the power he displayed previously in his career. He went from May 5 to June 30 without a homer. He has hit six in July, five in his last four games, including the 447-foot bomb on Sunday at Great American Ballpark. “My approach changes every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com, noting that he doesn’t always try to hit home runs. Batting mainly in the leadoff spot, he has 10 hits in his last four games and is batting .400 in his last 15. Dickerson and his Pirates mates are in Cleveland today, where their rejuvenation will be challenged by Corey Kluber, ace of the American League Central leader.

07 Jun

that’s versatility

Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, has been described as a “bat freak.” As a former MLB teammate once said, “He loves bats and he loves hitting.” Dickerson’s bat, which has produced 95 home runs in six big league seasons, wasn’t the main attraction in his performance for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. In an 11-9 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dickerson contributed with his baserunning and his defense. Never known for his wheels, Dickerson scored four runs – one on a throwing error, another after beating out an infield hit. Not regarded as a great defensive player, he made a strong throw from left field to double a runner off first base, registering his fifth assist of 2018. It was a big win for the Pirates, who had been shut out in their previous two games. “It looked like everybody kind of had better approaches and had a little more fun tonight,” Dickerson told mlb.com. Acquired from Tampa Bay in a surprising trade this spring, Dickerson – and his bat – have played a big part in Pittsburgh’s surprising start. Clint Hurdle’s Bucs are 31-30. Dickerson, who had three singles on Wednesday, is batting .324 – sixth in the league — with five homers, 32 RBIs and 30 runs. P.S. Coincidentally, three players from Meridian CC, all outfielders, were drafted on Wednesday: Davis Bradshaw in the 11th round by Miami, Sam McWilliams in the 19th round by the Dodgers and Milton Smith Jr. in the 22nd round by the Marlins. Dickerson was an eighth-rounder (by Colorado) eight years ago.

03 Mar

turn the page

Though it wasn’t a storybook moment, Corey Dickerson has symbolically turned a page in his career. The McComb native made his first plate appearance in a Pittsburgh uniform today, striking out against Philadelphia’s Ben Lively in a Grapefruit League game. Cast off – technically “designated for assignment” — by Tampa Bay in a rather surprising move on Feb. 18, Dickerson learned four days later he had been traded to Pittsburgh. He reported to Pirates camp in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday. He spent his time in baseball limbo back in Mississippi, where his wife gave birth to their second child. He also worked out at Meridian Community College, where he played in 2009 and ’10. Dickerson, who played high school ball at Brookhaven Academy, was an eighth-round draft pick by the Rockies out of MCC in 2010 and arrived in the big leagues in 2013. The 28-year-old came into this spring with a .280 average, 90 homers and 256 RBIs in 563 big league games, split between Colorado and Tampa Bay. An All-Star starter in 2017, the last thing he expected was to be DFA’d just after spring camp began in an apparent salary dump. “It’s hard to stomach,” he told mlb.com. “At the time, I was caught off guard.” In a sense, it was a lateral move. Neither the Rays nor the Pirates are expected to contend. Dickerson, a lefty hitter, is expected to be the Pirates’ left fielder, joining Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in what shapes up as a pretty good outfield. P.S. Staying on the Pirates track: Adam Frazier isn’t expected to hold a regular job with Clint Hurdle’s Bucs but does figure to get a fair number of at-bats as a utility man. The Mississippi State alum, who had quite a day at the plate on Friday (three hits, including a triple, three RBIs and two runs), enjoyed a solid 2017 campaign. He batted .276 with six homers, 53 RBIs and 55 runs in 121 games in his second big league season, and he also won the Pirates’ Heart and Hustle Award.

22 Feb

update

Pittsburgh announced today that it has acquired Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, in a trade with Tampa Bay for reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league infielder and cash. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star, was designated for assignment by the Rays last week. The 28-year-old outfielder has a .280 career average with 90 homers and a .504 slugging percentage in 563 MLB games.

27 Jul

time for a breakout

It is a three-team scrap, at the moment, in the American League East. Boston clings to a 1-game lead over the New York Yankees with Tampa Bay hanging 2.5 back. The Rays are visiting Yankee Stadium for a four-game series that starts tonight. Boston hosts surging Kansas City, an AL Central and wild card contender, for three starting on Friday. It’s not a good time to be in a slump, but both Corey Dickerson of the Rays and Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox are in one. Former Meridian Community College star Dickerson, a first-time All-Star this year, is batting .209 with one homer and four RBIs over his last 23 games. His average has plunged to .303. Yankee Stadium is a great hitter’s park for lefties, and Dickerson is batting .343 with three bombs against Yankees pitching this season. So … a breakout might be coming. The Rays would love to see it. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout, is hitting .124 without a homer in his last 24 games and went 2-for-17 on the club’s recent road trip. His average is down to .239, and he’s been dropped in the BoSox’s order. He suffered a broken toe in mid-June but played through it and says it’s fine now. If there is a positive for Moreland entering the weekend, he is a better hitter at Fenway Park: .253 with six of his 12 homers and a .341 on-base percentage. He doesn’t have a hit in seven at-bats against Royals pitchers this year, so … perhaps he is due. The Red Sox surely hope that’s true.

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 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.