07 Aug

out wichita way

The Kansas Stars and the NJCAA National Team, both with Mississippi natives on the roster, were impressive in their National Baseball Congress World Series openers on Saturday. Former Brandon High standout Barry Wesson, on a Stars team filled with ex-major leaguers, contributed a hit in an 8-0 victory at Wichita, Kan. Wesson, 39, played in 25 MLB games and spent 14 years all told in the minors and independent ball, last playing in 2011. Roy Oswalt, the former Weir High and Holmes Community College star, is also on the Stars roster, which includes the likes of Roger Clemens, Tim Hudson, Adam LaRoche, Dan Uggla, J.D. Drew and Josh Beckett. The NJCAA team, a collection of 2016 juco stars that includes Mason Irby, opened with a 12-4 win. Irby, an All-America honoree at Jones County JC and a Southern Miss signee, went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. The Stars and the NJCAA team are slated to meet on Wednesday in the pool portion of the tournament; Clemens has been announced as the Stars starter. … The semi-pro Laurel Black Cats were eliminated from the NBC event with an 0-3 record in pool play last week.

01 Aug

history lesson

Ran across an interesting tidbit while reading a story about the Laurel Black Cats’ first appearance in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. You might know of the semi-pro team’s rich history. It traces its roots to an independent Negro League franchise founded in the 1930s and claims the great Satchel Paige as an alumnus. Also mentioned in The Wichita Eagle article is a player named Ted Nicholson. Ever heard of him? In addition to playing for the Black Cats, Nicholson apparently played a little ball at Oak Park, the pre-integration black high school in Laurel. (Olympic gold medalist Ralph Boston also went there.) Nicholson was impressive enough to be drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1969. In the first round. Third overall. A third baseman at Oak Park, the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Nicholson was moved to the outfield in pro ball. He played parts of three seasons in the minors – his career was interrupted by military commitments, according to some sources – and hit a respectable .252 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. But he never got past the Class A Midwest League and never played another game in affiliated ball after 1971. As the third overall pick – behind Jeff Burroughs and J.R. Richard in that ’69 draft – Nicholson would have to be deemed a bust as a pro. Still, he owns the distinction of being the highest draftee ever out of a Mississippi high school over 52 years of MLB drafts. Seems like Ted Nicholson would be – or should be — more well-known.

29 Jul

busy schedule

Roy Oswalt, who won 163 games in the big leagues, second-most by a Mississippi native, is being inducted into the Round Rock Express Hall of Fame on Saturday in Texas. Next week, the 38-year-old former Weir High and Holmes Community College star is going to play again. Oswalt, who last pitched competitively in 2013, was recruited to play for the Kansas Stars, a collection of ex-big leaguers, in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Others on the squad include 53-year-old Roger Clemens, Tim Hudson, Josh Beckett, Adam LaRoche, J.D. Drew and Dan Uggla. The field for the NBC is made up mostly of semi-pro teams and college summer league squads. “If you took 10 years off our ages, I guarantee we’d be pretty hard to beat,” Oswalt told the Austin American-Statesman. There is a distinct Mississippi flavor in the NBC event. The semi-pro Laurel Black Cats, champions of the Magnolia State Tournament, are slated to start play tonight. Mason Irby, former Jones County Junior College star who’ll suit up for Southern Miss in 2017, is on the roster of the NJCAA National Team, which opens next week. Oswalt, drafted by Houston out of Holmes CC in 1996, spent the 2000 season in Round Rock. That was the new home of the Texas League franchise that had been in Jackson from 1975-99. Oswalt went 11-4 with a 1.94 ERA for the Express, helping the team win the TL championship. Five years later, he helped the Astros reach the World Series.

01 Jul

touching the bases

Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn will manage in the independent Atlantic League’s All-Star Game on July 13 in Lancaster, Pa. Cliburn’s Southern Maryland team won the Freedom Division title in 2015, which earned him the managerial honor even though he now skippers the New Britain Bees, who play in the Liberty Division. (So, yes, he’ll be managing against some of his own players.) … Jones County Junior College alum Mason Irby will play on the NJCAA National Team in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Irby, a Southern Miss signee from Meridian, batted .387 with eight homers and 76 RBIs for the NJCAA Division II national champion Bobcats. He is a first-team NJCAA All-America pick and an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove recipient as an outfielder. The NBC World Series will be held July 29-Aug. 13 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. … Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State slugger, has been chosen for the Triple-A All-Star Game, set for July 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The San Diego Padres prospect, who leads all of Triple-A with 18 home runs, already is slated to appear in the All-Star Futures Game on July 10 in San Diego. … Also on the Pacific Coast League team for the Triple-A Game are former Biloxi Shuckers star Orlando Arcia and ex-Mississippi Braves Gorkys Hernandez and James Hoyt. Onetime Jackson Mets shortstop Wally Backman is the PCL manager. Stu Cliburn, Stan’s brother and another Forest Hill High alum, is the pitching coach for the International League team; he is with Rochester in the Minnesota system. … Something about summer ball seems to suit Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker. Playing for Brewster in the Cape Cod League, Rooker is batting .391 with eight RBIs through 11 games. Rooker, who was drafted last month but apparently will return to the Bulldogs, was MVP of the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer, when he batted .360 with 11 bombs. He’ll be in Omaha on Sunday for the College Home Run Derby, along with Ole Miss’ Colby Bortles. … Also in the Cape, Southern Miss’ Kirk McCarty is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA for Orleans. … The North Delta Dealers have had the best hand in the Cotton States League to date, winning nine of their first 10 games in the New Albany college summer loop. East Mississippi Community College’s Garrett Ainsworth is 1-0 with a save in 7 1/3 innings, while John David Kubiszyn (Auburn) is batting .462 with three homers for the Dealers.