01 Jul

affirmation

Baseball means a lot in Mississippi. If you live here, you know that already. After what transpired in Omaha this week, it should be apparent to any- and everyone who follows the game. Mississippi State’s national championship is a source of pride for the state, regardless of whether you’re a Bulldogs fan. Having made 12 trips to the College World Series, four in the last nine years, State is firmly established as one of the nation’s best programs. The first national title is merely an affirmation that outsiders will notice. Hats off to Chris Lemonis and crew for getting it done. Ron Polk transformed the MSU program into a beast, and other state schools have followed that wave. Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Delta State and William Carey have been consistent winners led by a succession of great coaches — Bianco, Denson, Berry, Braddy, Johnson, Ferriss, Kinnison, Halford, to name a few. DSU (2004) and Carey (1969) have won national titles. Millsaps, Belhaven, Mississippi College and even the fledgling programs at Blue Mountain and MUW have had shining moments in recent seasons. The state’s junior college league ranks with the best in the nation and produced a national champ (Jones College) in 2013. Kids in Mississippi high schools yearn to play on the state’s grand stages, Dudy Noble Field, Taylor Park, Ferriss Field, Dub Herring Park, et al. Youth league opportunities and training facilities seemingly abound, including the new Hank Aaron Sports Academy at Smith-Wills Stadium. Mississippi produces, per capita, more major league players than practically every other state. A Baseball America survey in 2018 put Mississippi fourth behind only Florida, California and Georgia in the relative number of pros produced from 2011-17. This season, 29 Mississippians (natives, prep or college alums) have appeared on a major league roster. Eleven of those are MSU products. The Bulldogs’ national title should compel folks outside the state to notice. Yes, baseball means a lot here.

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