08 May

random treasure

Ran across an interesting old scoresheet while missing baseball and rummaging through some folders of baseball stuff. It’s from April 30, 2009, a game at Trustmark Park between the Mississippi Braves and the Montgomery Biscuits. It’s memorable not for any particular milestone but because it turned into a sort of showcase for Mississippi junior college baseball. The Biscuits, a Tampa Bay affiliate, won the game 9-2, fueled by the offensive exploits of state juco products Desmond Jennings, Rhyne Hughes and J.T. Hall. They combined to reach base 11 times, score five runs and drive in five runs. Collectively, they hit for the cycle. Leadoff batter Jennings, drafted by the Rays out of Itawamba Community College in 2006, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a double. He was on his way to Southern League MVP honors and a seven-year major league career with the Rays. No. 3 hitter Hughes, a 2004 Rays draftee out of Pearl River CC, went 3-for-5 with a homer off M-Braves starter Ryne Reynoso. Hughes made The Show in 2010, playing 14 games for Baltimore. Hall, drafted by Tampa Bay in 2004 (41st round) out of Southwest Mississippi CC, was the 6-hole hitter that day and went 3-for-3 with two walks, a triple, a homer (off Reynoso), a stolen base and three RBIs. The 2009 season was the last in affiliated ball for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder, who batted .253 with 43 homers in six minor league seasons. April 30, 2009, might’ve been Hall’s best day in pro ball. Bottom line: You never know what treasure you’ll find in an old scoresheet.

16 Apr

the bomb

A walk-off home run isn’t just a bomb — it’s “the bomb,” to borrow the cringe-worthy slang of another era. Of the many cool things you miss about baseball, the sudden, exhilarating finality of the game-ending homer rates near the top of the chart. There were 77 walk-off homers in the big leagues in 2019. Mississippians accounted for five of them, and this seems like a good time to relive them. The first was struck on April 9 by Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout from McComb. Dyson, not a slugger by any stretch, was sent up as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning for Arizona and surprised a lot of folks when he belted a two-run shot to beat Texas 5-4. It was Dyson’s first career walk-off homer and just the 15th homer of his 10-year career. Walk-off No. 2, Mississippi edition, came on April 26. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson stroked his first career walk-off – punctuated with an award-worthy bat flip – to give the Chicago White Sox a 12-11 win over Detroit. In a much-publicized incident a few days earlier, Anderson had ignited a benches-clearing kerfuffle when he bat-flipped after a mid-game homer against Kansas City. On May 5, Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, got into the walk-off act. Renfroe came up as a pinch hitter for San Diego in the ninth with the bases loaded and his team down a run to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Closer Kenley Jansen was on the bump. Renfroe delivered a 429-foot game-winner, his second career walk-off bomb, and threw his arms up as if signaling a touchdown. Next was Nate Lowe, another State product and a rookie with Tampa Bay. One Sept. 21, in the heat of the American League playoff battle, Lowe slugged a two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat Boston 5-4. It was his seventh of the season (and career) and first walk-off. It snatched victory from the Red Sox, who had gone ahead in the top of the inning on a homer by former Bulldogs star Mitch Moreland. Two days after Lowe’s heroics, Petal High product Anthony Alford, playing for Toronto, launched a two-out solo homer in the 15th inning to beat Baltimore 11-10. It was Alford’s first career homer, and he broke out in a huge grin as he rounded the bases. “I was trying to hold my smile as best I could, but it was pretty tough,” he told mlb.com. “It was my first-ever walk-off, so it felt pretty good.” It’s a feeling we’re all missing.

12 Feb

welcome aboard

Jarrod Dyson, who’s had to scrap for playing time over most of his 10-year big league career, may well begin the 2020 season as Pittsburgh’s starting center fielder. The Pirates reportedly have agreed to a contract with the McComb native, who spent last year with Arizona and batted .230 with 30 steals in a career-high 130 games and 400 at-bats. Dyson is 35 and has had some injury issues in recent seasons, but when healthy he brings plus-speed on the bases and in the field. He had a very productive 2019, setting career-highs for hits, runs, home runs and total bases. He’s a career .247 hitter (.319 on-base percentage) with 250 steals, second all-time (to Billy Hamilton’s 299) among Mississippi natives. A 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College by Kansas City in 2006, Dyson won a ring with the Royals in 2015.

21 Oct

it’s quite a list

The list of Mississippians in the majors who will or could be free agents after this season reads like a who’s who of the state’s best: Brian Dozier of the World Series-bound Washington Nationals, Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Drew Pomeranz and Jarrod Dyson. Billy Hamilton and Kendall Graveman have options in their deals that could also make them free agents. If the market is as sluggish as it was last year, one has to wonder how much attention any of them will get. Dozier, 32, hit .238 with 20 homers in his eighth MLB season; the Southern Miss product has been displaced as the Nationals’ second baseman by Howie Kendrick. Ex-Mississippi State star Moreland, 34, hit .252 with 19 homers for Boston in an injury-interrupted season, his 10th in the big leagues. Dickerson, 30, also had injury issues; the Meridian Community College alum batted .304 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in his seventh MLB campaign. Ex-Ole Miss star Pomeranz, 30, a nine-year vet, posted a 2.39 ERA as a reliever for Milwaukee after being traded from San Francisco, where he struggled as a starter. Southwest CC alum Dyson, 35, hit .230 with a career-high seven homers and 30 steals for Arizona in his 10th season. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, 29, hit .218 (with 22 steals) overall though he perked up after moving from Kansas City to Atlanta, which likely will buy out the final year of his contract. Ex-MSU standout Graveman, signed by the Chicago Cubs after last season, made just two minor league appearances rehabbing from 2018 Tommy John surgery. The team figures to pick up the option for 2020 — but nothing is certain. Graveman, 28, is 23-29, 4.38 ERA for his five-year career, spent mostly with Oakland.

09 Sep

weekend wrap

In a weekend replete with rivalry matchups and key series in the major leagues, Mississippians played roles large and small.
On Friday: Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, on his 34th birthday, banged out three hits including a three-run homer to spark wild card chaser Boston to a win over American League East frontrunner New York at Fenway Park. … Former MSU standout Adam Frazier went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs as Pittsburgh, playing spoiler, took down National League Central leader St. Louis at PNC Park.
On Saturday: Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went 2-for-5 with a two-run double as Philadelphia beat New York in a battle of NL wild card contenders at CitiField. … Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson walked, stole a base and scored a run as red-hot Arizona, making a wild card run, beat Cincinnati 2-0 at Great American Ballpark. … Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett, making his first MLB appearance in four years (see previous posts), worked a scoreless inning for NL wild card leader Washington in its loss to NL East leader Atlanta at SunTrust Park. Barrett broke down in tears in the dugout in one of the season’s most moving moments.
On Sunday: Dickerson drove in two runs and Philadelphia pitching coach Chris Young, a State alum, trotted out eight pitchers as the Phillies won 10-7 in the rubber game of their series vs. the Mets. New York, managed by ex-UM star Mickey Callaway, also deployed eight pitchers in the 4 hour, 29 minute game. … Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz retired the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning to help Milwaukee fend off NL Central rival Chicago and take three of four in the series at Miller Park. … UM product Jacob Waguespack was roughed up for six runs in 4 1/3 innings as AL wild card leader Tampa Bay whipped Toronto for a third straight time at Tropicana Field.
As Monday dawned, none of the six division races were particularly close, but four teams (including Boston on the fringe) remain in the AL wild card chase and six are still hunting the two spots in the NL. Today brings the finale of the Yankees-Red Sox series, a Braves visit to Philadelphia and a big interdivisional matchup of the Diamondbacks and Mets in New York.

27 Aug

dee-fense, dee-fense

Fans don’t shout “Dee-fense, dee-fense” at baseball games, but making plays in the field is an essential element of winning. The ability to catch and throw, skills he displayed on Monday night, has helped Jarrod Dyson carve out a 10-year big league career. In the sixth inning of Arizona’s game at San Francisco, McComb native Dyson, playing right field, made a leaping catch against the wall for the first out. (It was one of the Top Plays on MLB Network’s Quick Pitch.) Later in the inning, Dyson, shifting toward the line against left-handed pull hitter Brandon Crawford, fielded Crawford’s hit and cut down a runner at the plate, preserving the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 lead. “I played the play in my head before it happened, and it happened exactly how I played it,” the ever-quotable Dyson told The Associated Press. Arizona went on to win 6-4 in a battle of fringe wild card contenders. Dyson has eight assists this season and 165 putouts with just two errors in 96 games. For his career, during which he often has been used as a defensive replacement, Dyson has 59 assists and a .983 fielding percentage. The swift 35-year-old has played all three outfield positions in his career — and actually played all three in Monday’s game. P.S. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker started a rehab assignment on Monday with Minnesota’s Gulf Coast League team. Rooker, out with a groin injury, last played on July 13 for Triple-A Rochester, where he was batting .281 with 14 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Cody Carroll (the one from Tennessee) pitched a scoreless inning Saturday on a rehab assignment with Baltimore’s GCL team. Carroll, who made his big league debut in 2018, has been out all season with a back injury.

30 Jul

whatever happened to …

Kade Scivicque, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Braves standout, is plugging away – quite successfully – at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit chain. The 26-year-old catcher is batting .288 with two homers (including one on Monday) and six RBIs in 15 games for the Mud Hens after earning a mid-June promotion from Double-A Erie. Scivicque has bounced around a lot the last couple years. He was a Southern League midseason All-Star with the M-Braves in 2017 and went to spring training with Atlanta’s big club in 2018. He was squeezed off the Triple-A Gwinnett roster that April and released, then re-signed by Detroit, which had drafted him in the fourth round out of LSU in 2015 and dealt him to Atlanta in 2017. He played at three levels with the Tigers last year and opened 2019 at Erie, where he hit .346 with five homers in 28 games. An All-America pick at LSU, the defense-minded Scivicque has a .275 career minor league average. … Also on the Toledo roster is former Mississippi State star Jacob Robson, a fourth-year outfielder who is hitting .278 with seven homers, 40 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. MLB Pipeline rates him as the Tigers’ No. 25 prospect.

30 Jul

trade winds

Jarrod Dyson, having a good season with Arizona, is rumored to be drawing interest from other clubs as the MLB trade deadline approaches. MLB Trade Rumors rates the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout No. 31 among its top 75 trade candidates, and he is one of five Mississippi products appearing on that list. The others are Corey Dickerson (No. 3), Hunter Renfroe (39), Lance Lynn (67) and Drew Pomeranz (72). The trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m. CDT. Dyson, a speedy center fielder, is batting .251 with six home runs and ranks among the MLB leaders with 24 steals. He will be a free agent after this season. Meridian Community College product Dickerson, a left fielder, has had an injury-dampened season with Pittsburgh but is hitting .300. He is also a pending free agent. Mississippi State alum Renfroe, a corner outfielder with San Diego, has a career-high 29 homers plus 58 RBIs. He is arbitration-eligible next year. Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, has been a stalwart starter for Texas, posting a 13-6 record with a 3.83 ERA. He is in the first year of a 3-year, $30 million free agent deal. Lefty Pomeranz, also a UM product, is on a one-year deal with San Francisco and has mostly struggled. He is 2-9, 5.75 and recently was moved to the bullpen, where he has posted three straight scoreless appearances.

11 Jun

it’s a record

Jarrod Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College star, got it started. Dyson, not a renowned slugger, led off Monday’s Arizona-Philadelphia game with a home run. Twelve more bombs would be hit before the night ended, setting a major league record for a single game. The Diamondbacks hit a franchise-record eight of the 13 and, by the way, won the game 13-8. After Dyson’s leadoff shot, the next two D’backs hitters, Ketel Marte and David Peralta, also went deep. “Leading off with a homer set the tone and guys came behind me and did the same thing,” Dyson told mlb.com. Dyson is having an outstanding season at age 34. The 10-year vet, a former 50th-round draft pick, is batting .268 (.352 on-base percentage) with four homers, 14 RBIs, 31 runs and 14 stolen bases in 52 games. He is a .252 career hitter, and his career-high for homers is five. It’s pretty cool, too, to have had a hand in an all-time home run record, though the way things are going, it might not survive the season. P.S. Just throwing this out there: Dallas Keuchel’s next minor league start for Atlanta likely will be on Saturday. Triple-A Gwinnett is playing on the road, as is low Class A Rome, for whom Keuchel pitched Monday. High-A Florida doesn’t play. The Double-A Mississippi Braves are home on Saturday.

30 May

men of steal

Stealing bases is becoming a lost art in the major leagues, but there is a trio of Mississippians doing their best to keep the steal relevant. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, leads the National League in stolen bases with 12. Tim Anderson, an East Central CC alum, is tied for third in the American League with 13, and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is hot on his heels with 11, seventh in the AL. Former Mississippi Braves star Mallex Smith also has 13 bags in the AL. Hamilton, in his seventh MLB campaign and first with Kansas City, is the all-time leader among Mississippians with 288 bags. He averaged 58 a year from 2014-17 but dropped to 34 in 2018. Dyson, in his 10th season and second in Arizona, is second on Mississippi list with 232, having passed Gulfport native Gee Walker (223) earlier this year. Dyson’s career-best is 36 bags in 2014. Anderson, in his fourth year with the Chicago White Sox, has 64 career steals, with a season-high of 26 in 2018. P.S. The long ball seemingly never has been more popular or prevalent, and ex-DeSoto Central standout Austin Riley is making historic contributions. The Atlanta rookie hit his first grand slam on Wednesday and now has seven home runs through 14 career games, second-most in MLB history in such a span. (Colorado’s Trevor Story belted eight in his first 14 games in 2016.) … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland (back) and Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack (shoulder) landed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday, Waguespack two days after making his MLB debut for Toronto. The current all-Mississippi IL also includes Zack Cozart, Corey Dickerson, Kendall Graveman, Mike Mayers, Chris Stratton and Bobby Wahl.