The NJCAA National Team, featuring five MACJC players, has made the semifinals of the National Baseball Congress World Series. The NJCAA stars, who rallied to win their quarterfinal 9-8 in a game that ended at 1:40 a.m. local time today, play the Wellington Heat tonight at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan. Brant Blaylock, a Southern Miss signee out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, is hitting .294 with three RBIs and four runs. Hinds CC coach Sam Temple is an assistant on the team. … The get-off-my-lawn segment of traditionalists may cringe, but Players Weekend is back in the big leagues. “Bull,” “C-Dizzle,” “Bone” and “Juicy J” are nicknames that will adorn the distinctly non-traditional jerseys of Mississippians in the majors during the second annual event that starts Aug. 24. Brian Dozier is “Bull,” Corey Dickerson “C-Dizzle,” Billy Hamilton “Bone” and JaCoby Jones “Juicy J.” Mitch Moreland again will wear “2 Bags,” and Hunter Renfroe will be “Froe.” Lance Lynn will wear “Mia,” his daughter’s name. … Milwaukee visits Atlanta for a big weekend series that matches the parent clubs of the state’s two Double-A teams. The Braves have a much more homegrown roster, with 10 former Mississippi Braves among the 25 players. That tally includes five regulars: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo and Ronald Acuna. There are four Biloxi Shuckers alums with the Brewers, none of them position regulars. Tonight’s starter, Freddy Peralta, is one of three pitchers who played in Biloxi. … Saturday is National Baseball Card Day, a reminder to search the attic one more time for those lost cardboard treasures. How much is a George Scott rookie worth, anyway? … Four Mississippians are on the East roster for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego: Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy, Pearl River Central’s Hayden Dunhurst, George County’s Logan Tanner and Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, who attends IMG Academy in Florida.
There’s only one way to celebrate National Baseball Card Day: Tear open a pack of Topps cards. The anticipation of the big reveal makes you feel like a kid again. Every time. You remember when you got that Richie Allen rookie card that nobody else had. So there you go, hoping for, say, a Cody Bellinger or an Aaron Judge or a Ronald Acuna. Instead you pull out a Miguel Rojas, a Kolten Wong and a Melvin Upton Jr. It happens. There’s also a card of James Loney in the uniform of the Texas Rangers, a team he never officially played for, and a reprint of a 1989 Bill Schroeder. Oh well, there will always be another pack — and the wonderful anticipation that comes with it. P.S. Watch for it: Boston-New York at Yankee Stadium, today. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz (11-4, 3.36 ERA) will pitch for the Red Sox against Luis Severino in Game 2 of the latest huge series between these ancient rivals. The Yankees won an electric Game 1 on Friday night. … Perfect Game All-American Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park, Sunday. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray and Brandon’s J.T. Ginn will participate in this high school showcase to be televised by MLB Network at 3 p.m. (Both also played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.) Gray, an Ole Miss commit, is one of the six finalists for Perfect Game’s Jackie Robinson Award, which goes to the organization’s national player of the year. Gray batted .477 with seven homers and 19 steals for Hattiesburg this past season.
The Washington Nationals have rid themselves of the mercurial Jonathan Papelbon, giving the ex-Mississippi State star his unconditional release on Saturday. Saturday also happened to be National Baseball Card Day. So, of course, when you rip open a pack of 2016 Topps Series 1 to celebrate this special day, you get a … Jonathan Papelbon. Then you open a 2016 Bowman pack and you get a … Mark Melancon, the ex-Pittsburgh closer who displaced Papelbon in Washington. Is that ironic or coincidental or a little bit of both? Also pulled from the same 36-card pack that included the Papelbon: Mitch Moreland, Seth Smith, Chris Coghlan, Kendall Graveman, Jeff Francoeur and Blaine Boyer, local connections all. In a pack of Topps Series 2, there’s a Martin Prado and Luis Avilan and a 100 Years of Wrigley Field commemorative card featuring Rafael Palmeiro’s big league debut (Sept. 8, 1986). In the afore-mentioned Bowman pack, there’s a JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star now in Triple-A in Detroit’s system. Scattered throughout these packs are other cards of note. A Corey Seager rookie here, a Kyle Seager there. A Jose Bautista bat flip card here, a Rougned Odor there. Current stars such as Madison Bumgarner, Anthony Rizzo, Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Duvall, and future stars (maybe) like Gary Sanchez, A.J. Reed, Brendan Rodgers and Phil Bickford. (Alas, no Dansby Swanson or Ozzie Albies.) Among the so-called inserts, there was a Manny Machado, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and a reprint of a 1991 Frank Thomas (very cool card). All in all, quite a haul. P.S. So what does Papelbon do next? He wants to keep playing, for sure, and among the teams that are rumored to be interested is the Boston Red Sox, his original club. Do they dare go there?