19 Jul

all-star nuggets

The last time Dodger Stadium hosted an All-Star Game, Grenada native Dave Parker started in right field for the National League, which won 4-2 to take a 32-18-1 lead in the series. That was 1980 — and, my, how things have changed. The American League takes a 46-43-2 lead into tonight’s game. … Tim Anderson (East Central Community College) will start at shortstop for the AL and Austin Riley (DeSoto Central High) will come off the bench for the Nationals in tonight’s game, but they won’t be the only Mississippians to take the field in Los Angeles. Brookhaven native Lance Barksdale, a veteran MLB umpire, will work first base in his second All-Star Game assignment. … Riley is one of five former Mississippi Braves on the NL’s active roster, joining Ronald Acuna, William Contreras, Dansby Swanson (all with Atlanta) and Freddie Freeman (now the Dodgers). Max Fried was named to the team but will not pitch. Brian Snitker, the M-Braves’ first manager in 2005, will run the NL squad. Former Biloxi Shuckers star Devin Williams of Milwaukee also is on the NL roster. … Acuna, who will start in right field and bat leadoff, hit a 472-foot bomb completely out of Dodger Stadium — a very rare feat — during Monday’s Home Run Derby. … Venerable Dodger Stadium, which formally opened in 1962, underwent a $100 million renovation in 2019-20 under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith, the club’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. The All-Star Game was to have been played there in 2020 but was rescheduled to this year. Smith, a Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer, called her work “less of a renovation … than it is a reimagining of how these buildings come together.” A new plaza beyond center field makes it a more fan-friendly, fan-accessible facility. … Thirty years ago, in the 1992 All-Star Game at San Diego, former Mississippi State star Will Clark hit his only home run in six All-Star appearances. Clark, then with San Francisco, took former Jackson Mets pitcher Rick Aguilera deep for a three-run homer in the eighth inning of the AL’s 13-6 victory. Clark went 5-for-13 in All-Star Games. … Twenty years ago, in the 2002 Midsummer Classic at Milwaukee, Jackson Generals alum Freddy Garcia, then with Seattle, got the last six outs for the AL (in innings 10 and 11) in the infamous 7-7 tie that created such an inexplicable uproar. Former Gens star Lance Berkman, with Houston at the time, drove in two runs for the NL. … William and Willson Contreras are the latest brother act in the All-Star Game, a list that includes Pascagoula native Harry Walker and brother Dixie (born in Alabama) in 1947. Harry Walker started in center field and led off for the NL, with Dixie playing right and hitting second. Harry, who won a World Series with St. Louis in 1946, was traded to Philadelphia early in ’47, made the All-Star Game for the second time and went on to win the NL batting title. … Trivia time: Who was the first Mississippi native to make an All-Star Game? Ellisville’s Buddy Myer of the Washington Senators was on the AL roster for the 1935 game — the third one played — but he didn’t get on the field.

18 Jul

full steam ahead

Tuning up for his first MLB All-Star Game start in a huge series at Minnesota, Tim Anderson went 6-for-19 with a homer, three RBIs and seven runs as the Chicago White Sox took three of four from the first-place Twins. Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, knocked in the first two runs of Sunday’s 11-0 win, which moved the third-place ChiSox to 46-46 and within 3 games of Minnesota in the American League Central. Anderson will take a .310 average, six homers, 24 RBIs, 11 steals and some good vibes into Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where he’ll be the first White Sox shortstop to start the game since 1970. Anderson made the 2021 Midsummer Classic, his first trip, as a replacement. Anderson was drafted 17th overall in 2013, the highest a state juco player has ever been selected, and has lived up to expectations, batting .288 over seven seasons and winning a batting title in 2019. P.S. Mississippi State pitcher Landon Sims was the 34th overall pick by Arizona in Sunday night’s MLB draft, and Bulldogs catcher Logan Tanner went 55th overall to Cincinnati. Rounds 3-10 will be held today. … MSU’s Kellum Clark has been picked as a reserve for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, set for July 23. Clark is batting .264 with six RBIs and 10 runs for Wareham in the college summer league. The former Brandon High standout hit .257 with 14 homers for the Bulldogs in 2022.

17 Jul

saturday in the park

At Trustmark Park in Pearl, Vaughn Grissom kept raking and Drew Lugbauer slugged another home run for the red-hot Double-A Mississippi Braves. Grissom, Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, hit a two-run triple to the gap in right-center and Lugbauer added his 20th homer — high off the batter’s eye in dead center field — to help the M-Braves (13-4) to a 6-2 win over Rocket City. In five games in Pearl, Grissom is batting .500 (11-for-22) with a homer and five RBIs. He hit .312 with 11 homers at High-A Rome before being promoted.
At Nationals Park in Washington, newly minted All-Star Austin Riley hit his 27th homer for Atlanta and fellow All-Star and M-Braves alum Max Fried won his 10th game as the Braves beat the Nats 6-3. Ex-DeSoto Central High standout Riley is batting .284, slugging .577 and has 61 RBIs and 54 runs in 91 games. Fried went seven innings to move to 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA.
At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Matt Wallner, the ex-Southern Miss star, hit a two-run homer in the All-Star Futures Game. M-Braves pitcher Jared Shuster yielded a home run in to his former M-Braves batterymate Shea Langeliers, now in Oakland’s system. Langeliers was named the game’s MVP. Wallner, recently promoted to Triple-A in the Minnesota system, hit 21 homers in Double-A this season.
At SRP Park in North Augusta, S.C., Brandon Parker, the Saucier native and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product, hit his seventh homer for Low-A Augusta in Atlanta’s system and boosted his average to .282 (.333 in July) with a two-hit game. Parker hit .185 at Augusta in 2021.
P.S. Kudos to Team USA and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco for a bronze medal finish in an international tournament in The Netherlands. Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez hit .250 with a homer and four RBIs, Rebels teammate Hunter Elliott posted a 1.31 ERA in two games and Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall won his lone start. … Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Devin Williams, now a set-up reliever in Milwaukee, reportedly has been added to the National League All-Star team. Fellow Shuckers alum Josh Hader, the Brewers’ closer, was picked but elected not to participate.

16 Jul

update: riley’s in

Austin Riley has been added to the National League roster for Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game, replacing Nolan Arenado. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley, Atlanta’s third baseman, joins East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, the American League’s starting shortstop, as Mississippians invited to the Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Riley is one of five former Mississippi Braves on the NL roster, along with Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, William Contreras and Max Fried.

16 Jul

star power

The No. 1 player in the Hitter Power Rankings announced Thursday by mlb.com is not in Monday’s Home Run Derby. Nor is ex-DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley in the MLB All-Star Game, though he keeps building his case to be named as a replacement should one be needed on the National League squad. Riley, the aircraft carrier for Atlanta’s potent offense, leads the majors in total bases with 201. He hit his 26th homer — second in the NL — in Friday’s win at Washington. He is batting .424 with eight homers and 17 RBIs in his past 16 games and is currently riding an 11-game hit streak. Star stuff, for sure. Riley has said he’d love to participate in a Home Run Derby if (when?) he makes an All-Star Game. One imagines the 6-foot-3, 240-pound third baseman could put on quite a show. If we could put together a home run derby contest solely of Mississippians in pro ball, it would be compelling theater. You’d have Riley, who has blasted a 441-footer this season; Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe, who has 13 bombs for Milwaukee, including a 444-foot shot; Mississippi State alum Nathaniel Lowe (12 homers, including a 439-footer, for Texas); Southern Miss product Matt Wallner (21 in Double-A for Minnesota); ex-State star Brent Rooker (16 in Triple-A for San Diego); MSU alum Jordan Westburg (16 at Double-A and Triple-A for Baltimore); former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim (13 at Double-A for Texas); and the DeSoto Central slugging legend Blaze Jordan (eight in A-ball for Boston). P.S. Wallner is in today’s All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. There is an unofficial batting practice home run derby during that event, and he’d be one to watch. … Brookhaven native Lance Barksdale, a veteran MLB umpire, has been named as one of the umps for Tuesday’s All-Star Game; he’ll work first base. … Oxford High catcher Campbell Smithwick participated in Friday’s MLB-USA Baseball High School All-American Game at Dodger Stadium. … St. Louis has placed MSU product Dakota Hudson on the injured list with a neck strain. Hudson is 6-6 with a 4.10 ERA on the year — 2-4, 6.16 in his last seven starts. … Atlanta prospect Vaughn Grissom is batting .556 in four games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who won Friday on a walk-off homer by Justyn-Henry Malloy to improve to 12-4 in the second half.

11 Jul

it’s on: mets-braves

New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves. Three-game series at Truist Park. Mets lead the Braves by 1 1/2 games in the National League East. This is going to be so much fun to watch, especially for Mississippi baseball aficionados. The Mets, after a late collapse in 2021, have been reinvigorated by manager Buck Showalter, the former Mississippi State star from the 1970s. The Braves, world champs in 2021, are back in championship form, led by former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker and an armada of ex-M-Braves stars. All three of Atlanta’s scheduled starting pitchers for the series cut their teeth in Pearl. All-Star Max Fried (9-2, 2.52 ERA), who goes tonight, pitched for the M-Braves in 2017 and briefly in 2018. Flame-throwing Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.60, 102 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings) pitched at Trustmark Park just last season, going 3-7, 4.71, but fanning 94 in 63 innings. And veteran Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.21) helped the 2007 M-Braves reach the postseason in the Southern League. Atlanta has five players picked for the All-Star Game, including M-Braves alums Ronald Acuna, William Contreras and Dansby Swanson. Former Braves star Mark DeRosa said on MLB Central today that it’s “a sin” that Austin Riley didn’t make the Midsummer Classic. The third baseman out of DeSoto Central High, also a former M-Braves standout, is batting .282 with 23 homers and 56 RBIs. DeRosa marveled over Riley’s at-bats in Sunday’s win against Washington; Riley went 3-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs, including the game-winner. The Braves, whose Double-A club has been in Pearl since 2005, have plenty of followers in the Jackson metro. But there are some Mets fans around, too, holdovers from the Jackson Mets era (1975-90) that produced so many big league stars and three Texas League pennants at Smith-Wills Stadium. P.S. The Braves have traded M-Braves alums Drew Waters, C.J. Alexander and Andrew Hoffman (who just joined the team on July 8) to Kansas City for the 35th pick in the upcoming draft. Waters, who was at Triple-A Gwinnett, won the Southern League batting title in 2019. Alexander was one of the best players on the current M-Braves club.

09 Jul


One imagines that Tim Anderson did a virtual bat flip when he got the official word. The demonstrative (and occasionally controversial) Anderson won the fan voting for American League All-Star shortstop. “It’s a blessing,” the East Central Community College product told mlb.com after his Chicago White Sox lost to Detroit on Friday night. “I’m very thankful to be selected to start.” Despite a recent slump, Anderson is batting .316 with five homers, 20 RBIs and 10 steals in 56 games as the White Sox’s leadoff batter. The former AL batting champ was picked for last year’s game as a replacement for an injured player. The last ChiSox shortstop to start an All-Star Game was Luis Aparicio in 1970. … At least one Mississippi college product has made the All-Star Game every year since 2015, starting with Brian Dozier and Jonathan Papelbon that year, followed by Drew Pomeranz (2016), Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson (2017), Mitch Moreland (2018), Brandon Woodruff (2019) and Anderson, Woodruff, Lance Lynn and Adam Frazier (2021). (There was no game in 2020.) P.S. An actual bat flip was in order for the Mississippi Braves’ Drew Lugbauer, who hit a walk-off three-run homer in a 6-3 win Friday night against Pensacola at Trustmark Park. “Slugbauer” now has 17 homers on the year for the Double-A M-Braves, off to a 7-3 start in the second half of the Southern League season. Other notable bombs from Friday: Former M-Braves Ronald Acuna (an All-Star starter), William Contreras and Michael Harris II for Atlanta; Mississippi State alum Jordan Westburg, No. 7 for Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore); Ole Miss product Thomas Dillard, No. 7 for Double-A Biloxi (Milwaukee); ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast CC star Brandon Parker, No. 5 as part of a four-hit game for Low-A Augusta (Atlanta); and Brookhaven native James Beard, No. 4 for Low-A Kannapolis (White Sox).

06 Jul

star power?

During his rise to the big leagues, former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe was a New York-Penn League All-Star, a Midwest League All-Star, a Florida State League All-Star, an All-Star Futures Game selection and a Baseball America Double-A All-Star. Now the Texas Rangers first baseman is bidding for his first MLB All-Star appearance. While the Rangers’ big-money free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien have generally under-performed, Lowe is thriving. Over his past 30 games, the four-year vet is batting .307 with eight homers, 20 RBIs and 17 runs for a sub-.500 team that was hoping for better. “He’s really stepped up his game,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward recently told si.com. Lowe is batting .282, best among Texas regulars, with 12 homers and 37 RBIs. He hit 18 bombs for the 102-loss Rangers in 2021. No Texas player made the final cut in the All-Star Game fan voting. The reserves, to be announced on Sunday, are picked by player ballot and the commissioner’s office. Each team must be represented, and Lowe looks to be as deserving as any Rangers player. P.S. Seattle rookie Julio Rodriguez broke a record that Vicksburg native Ellis Burks probably didn’t know he held. Rodriguez reached 15 homers and 20 steals in his first 81 MLB games, one game faster than Burks did it in 1987 with Boston. Burks went on to hit 20 homers and steal 27 bags while batting .272 that season. He now does TV commentary for the Red Sox.

01 Jul

on this date

Joey Butler didn’t make much of a mark in the major leagues, getting 75 hits in 102 games over three seasons (2013-15) for three different clubs. But on July 1, 2015, while with Tampa Bay, the Pascagoula native, down 0-2 in the count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, delivered an RBI single that broke up a no-hitter by Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco. Something for the scrapbook, no doubt, but not Butler’s best day in The Show — not by a long shot. On Oct. 4, 2015, playing for the Rays against Toronto, Butler went 3-for-4 with two homers and six RBIs. One of the homers was a grand slam off Mark Buehrle. That’s a big day. It capped a season in which Butler batted .276 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 88 games. He was 29 at the time. And yet, strangely enough, that Oct. 4 game was the last one the right-handed hitting outfielder/DH would play in the majors. A Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and New Orleans alumnus, he played two more years in Triple-A, finishing his pro career with 108 bombs — eight in the majors, 92 in the minors, six in Japan and two in winter ball. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna has earned a starting outfield spot in the MLB All-Star Game as the top vote-getter in the National League. Former M-Braves Ozzie Albies (second base), Dansby Swanson (shortstop) and William Contreras (DH) also made the final two at their positions in the fan voting, as did ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson (shortstop) of the Chicago White Sox in the American League. Phase two of the voting runs from July 5-8. The game is July 19 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.