07 Nov

next stop, chi-town

Marcus Thames’ whirlwind tour of MLB’s big markets reportedly will resume. The Louisville native reportedly has been hired as hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox. Thames, who hit 115 homers over a 10-year big league career that ended in 2011, was the hitting coach with the New York Yankees for several years, took a detour to Miami’s staff in 2022 and then spent 2023 with the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Phil Nevin after the season. Thames is a well-respected hitting coach, and the Angels’ offensive numbers in many categories improved under his watch. He will not get a chance to work in 2024 with fellow East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson. The White Sox recently declined an option on the veteran shortstop’s contract, making him a free agent. Anderson signed a seven-year deal ($37.5 million) after a promising rookie campaign in 2016, won a batting title and made two All-Star teams before suffering a dreadful 2023 season, batting .245 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a negative WAR. The outspoken Alabama native is also a lightning rod for controversy. P.S. Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, dismissed by the Mets after his second year as manager, reportedly is a candidate for the Angels job, as is former Jackson Generals star Ray Montgomery. … Lance Lynn, the veteran pitcher out of Ole Miss, became a free agent after the Dodgers declined an option in his contract. Lynn had a tough year (5.73 ERA) that ended when he gave up four home runs in one inning in a playoff game against Arizona. … Kudos to ex-Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe on winning a Gold Glove at first base for world champion Texas. Mauricio Dubon, who passed through Biloxi on his way to The Show, earned a Gold Glove as a utitity player for Houston. … Oakland outrighted Ole Miss product Chad Smith to Triple-A; he had a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for the A’s. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a Dodgers prospect, pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Sunday and yielded a 433-foot home run to Kyle Manzardo.

22 Sep

tough times in ‘the town’

Thursday’s game represented Brent Rooker’s season in a nutshell. The ex-Mississippi State star blasted a two-run homer — his fifth in eight games and 28th of the year — for Oakland. Yay. It came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game the A’s would lose 7-3 to Detroit, the eighth straight loss for the worst team (46-107) in baseball. Ugh. Rooker also struck out three times, giving him 160 on the year in 432 at-bats. That’s not a good ratio. On top of that, he made a throwing error in right field, one of three Oakland misplays. Perhaps it was a good thing only 6,160 people were there to see all this. Rooker, in his fourth MLB season with his fourth team, made the All-Star Game this season. But he isn’t guaranteed a job with the A’s for 2024, when the Las Vegas-bound team will be a lame duck at Oakland Coliseum. Rooker, 28, is batting .241 this year with a .324 on-base percentage and 64 RBIs. P.S. In Triple-A, former MSU star Justin Foscue hit a grand slam and drove in six runs all told for Round Rock in the Texas system. Foscue, the 14th overall draft pick in 2020 and a highly rated Rangers prospect, is batting .265 with 17 home runs, 79 RBIs and 14 steals for the Express, which is contending for a playoff berth in the Pacific Coast League. He has played first, second and third base this season. … In Double-A, Southern Miss product Walker Powell worked five inning (three hits, one run, six strikeouts) to boost Tennessee (Chicago Cubs) past Chattanooga and into the Southern League Championship Series. Powell won a league-high 11 games for the Smokies during the regular season. MSU alum Rowdey Jordan, a .230 hitter with 13 bombs this year, had a 1-for-4 night as Binghamton (New York Mets) beat Somerset and reached the Eastern League finals.

03 Sep

hustle pays off

It looked like an inning-ending double play when the shortstop snagged the ball, but Hunter Renfroe charged hard down the first-base line and, by a whisker, beat the relay throw from the second baseman. The game-winning run scored from third, giving former Mississippi State star Renfroe his first RBI with Cincinnati and the Reds a huge 2-1 victory Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs. “I was doing everything I could to get there as fast as I can,” the 230-pound Renfroe said in a postgame TV interview, adding that he was surprised Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson reached the hard-hit grounder deep in the hole in the ninth inning. Renfroe is 0-for-9 since the Reds claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, but his hustle on Saturday contributed mightily to the Reds’ ninth walk-off and 43rd comeback victory of 2023. Renfroe — “glad to be here” — was swarmed by his teammates. The so-called “Rally Reds” are in a three-way tie for the third wild card in the National League, 2 games back of the Cubs. P.S. Ex-State standout Adam Frazier had an RBI double and scored a run in the middle of a seven-hit, six-run, fourth-inning barrage by Baltimore, which kept its grip on first place in the American League East with a 7-3 win against Arizona, an NL wild card contender. Frazier has 54 RBIs and 53 runs in 119 games for the O’s. … MSU product Brent Rooker’s 23rd homer accounted for all of Oakland’s runs in a much less meaningful 2-1 win over the Angels. … Ronald Acuna continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers: The former Mississippi Braves star’s 32nd homer left the bat at 121.2 mph and went 454 feet, helping Atlanta beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2 in 10 innings, for the third straight night. … In the minors, Kemp Alderman, the 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner out of Ole Miss, belted his first homer as a pro for Low-Class A Jupiter in the Miami system. Alderman, a second-round pick, is batting .181 with 10 RBIs in 28 games. … Southern Miss product Matthew Etzel went 3-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a steal in a doubleheader for Low-A Delmarva in the Orioles’ chain. Etzel, a 10th-round pick in July, is batting .318 with two homers, 19 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 20 games for the Shorebirds. … USM alum Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick, threw three shutout innings with four strikeouts and three walks in his Double-A debut for the M-Braves at Trustmark Park.

22 Aug

great timing

Brent Rooker hit a milestone home run on Sunday, his 20th of the season accounting for Oakland’s lone run in a 12-1 loss to Baltimore. On Monday, the ex-Mississippi State star hit a much more significant home run, No. 21 producing a walk-off 6-4 victory for the A’s over Kansas City at Oakland Coliseum. Not only that, the homer came just in time for Rooker and some teammates to scurry over to the Oakland Arena and catch the show by Rooker’s favorite country music star, Zach Bryan. Rooker even made an appearance on stage with Bryan, who was performing before a crowd quite a bit larger than the 3,095 who watched the two worst teams in baseball fight to the finish on Monday. It has been a roller coaster of a season for Rooker, who joined the A’s as an off-season waiver claim from the Royals. He ht .358 with nine homers in April, which earned him an appearance on MLB Network’s MLB Central show and propelled him to his first All-Star Game nod. There have been a lot of struggles since then, but Rooker’s bat has perked up recently. He is hitting .346 over his last seven games. “Swing and approach-wise, I feel pretty solid,” he said. Rooker, batting .245 with 53 RBIs, and many of his teammates may be vying for 2024 jobs with the lowly A’s, who are 35-90. … Rooker stands second on the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby chart to Austin Riley, who has 29 this season. Hunter Renfroe is at 18, Nathaniel Lowe at 15, Adam Frazier at 13 and Matt Wallner at nine.

30 Jul

present arms

Stars must have been aligned on Saturday night. By some cosmic coincidence, five Magnolia State college products got the ball as starting pitchers in minor league games, scattered from Double-A to Low-Class A. Collectively, they pitched pretty darn well, allowing five runs and striking out 21 batters over 25 innings all told. Only one got a decision, however, and that was a loss. Most impressive among the bunch was former Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, who delivered four perfect innings, fanning three, for Low-A Stockton (Oakland system). The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft (by Toronto), Hoglund spent several weeks on the injured list this season and has scuffled (6.32 ERA in nine starts) since his return. Saturday’s outing certainly was a good sign. The hard-luck loser on Saturday was Southern Miss alum Dalton Rogers. He threw 5 2/3 innings for High-A Greenville (Boston), allowing just two runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA; he had a 2.49 ERA in Low-A to start the season. Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson, in pro ball since 2017, worked 6 2/3 for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia), allowing a lone run with six strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 4.61. Former USM standout Hunter Stanley tossed 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron (Cleveland), giving up a lone run with four strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 5.02. Houston Harding, a Mississippi State and Itawamba Community College product, made his first start for Double-A Rocket City (Los Angeles Angels) in the Southern League and went four innings, allowing one run (a home run). Harding had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball this season but has not been as effective (12.42) in nine Double-A appearances. Saturday’s start was a positive step. P.S. A pair of Mississippians in the majors hit noteworthy homers: Tim Anderson belted his first in over a year and Brent Rooker hit his first since appearing in the All-Star Game. East Central Community College product Anderson, who has 98 career bombs, hit a leadoff shot for the Chicago White Sox, his first in 327 at-bats this season. Slumping for much of the season, Anderson is 20-for-57 (.351) since the All-Star break. Ex-MSU star Rooker’s homer was his 17th for Oakland but first in 20 days. His bomb at Colorado went 462 feet, longest by an A’s player this year. He is batting .269 since the break, .248 on the year.

06 Jul

show of arms

Mississippi State alum J.P. France was at it again on Wednesday, producing a sixth straight quality start for Houston and picking up the win in the surging Astros’ 6-4 victory over Colorado. The rookie right-hander (4-3, 3.26 ERA in 11 starts) yielded three runs in six innings as Houston moved within 2 games of first-place Texas in the American League West. France led a parade of Magnolia State products who delivered outstanding pitching performances on Wednesday. All-Star Justin Steele, the former George County High star, gave up three runs in six innings but got a no-decision in a game the Chicago Cubs would win 4-3 at Milwaukee; Columbus native Michael Rucker got the win in relief. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, ex-Jackson Prep standout Will Warren tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings for the New Yankees’ top farm club and improved to 4-3, 4.37, in eight starts there. The Southeastern Louisiana alum — the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect — was 3-0 in Double-A this season. In Double-A, former Southern Miss standout Walker Powell surrendered three runs (three solo homers) in six innings and got a no-decision in a game Tennessee (Cubs) would win 4-3 in 10 over Birmingham. The 6-foot-8 Powell is 4-4, 4.16, in 14 games for the Smokies. Topping that performance in High-A was Tyler Stuart, another USM product, who allowed two runs over six innings for Brooklyn (New York Mets) in a 4-3 win against Wilmington. Stuart, a 2022 draftee, is 4-0 with a 1.55 in 14 starts for the Cyclones. P.S. Houston’s rookie catcher Yainer Diaz hit two homers on Wednesday. The last two rookie catchers with a multi-homer game for the Astros were former Jackson Generals Mitch Meluskey (2000) and Tony Eusebio (1994). … St. Louis recalled ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson from the minors, but his second MLB appearance this season did not go as well as his first (two runs, two hits, three walks in 2 2/3 early relief). .. Oakland has designated Ole Miss alum Chad Smith for assignment; he had a 6.75 ERA in nine games.

03 Jul

very cool moment

Before the Oakland A’s played on Sunday, manager Mark Kotsay addressed the team in the clubhouse and, in a very cool way, informed them that Brent Rooker had made the All-Star Game, voted in as a DH by his peers. Rooker, the former Mississippi State slugger, buried his face in his hands as his teammates applauded and cheered. (Watch the video; it’s emotional.) Rooker went to spring training with the A’s — his fourth organization in a year’s time — unsure of a roster spot. He not only made the club but was one of baseball’s hottest hitters in April, batting .358 with nine homers and 22 RBIs that month. He has cooled off of late (.191, three homers, 39 strikeouts in his last 30 games), but Kotsay stressed that Rooker was deserving of the All-Star nod and hailed his “perseverance and grit” in getting to where he is. “It’s overwhelming,” said Rooker, seemingly as humble a guy as you could hope to meet. He thanked his teammates for making him feel welcome as a newcomer in the spring. Rooker didn’t start Sunday’s game but entered as a pinch hitter and belted his team-leading 14th homer in the A’s 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He is batting .243 with 41 RBIs, also a team-high. P.S. Fingers are crossed in Baltimore after Jordan Westburg, the rookie out of MSU, was hit by a pitch on the left arm Sunday. He was expected to undergo an MRI. The HBP came with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and pushed the winning run across in a 2-1 victory against Minnesota. It was Westburg’s third RBI in six games in the majors; he is batting .263. He stayed in the game at second base in the ninth. … Braden Montgomery, the Madison Central High product and current Stanford star, hit a two-run homer for Team USA in a 10-0 romp over Chinese Taipei. He is 2-for-12 in the team’s three games to date; he has not yet pitched in the series.

14 Jun

beware of dog

The Dogs were out and barking in MLB parks on Tuesday night. Four former Mississippi State Bulldogs enjoyed big nights at the plate, with two of them going head-to-head in a significant American League West clash. Hunter Renfroe hit a go-ahead home run — his 12th — to help the Los Angeles Angels beat AL West-leader Texas 7-3. The Angels have won three in a row and eight of nine to pull within 4.5 games of the Rangers. Nathaniel Lowe went 3-for-5 with his eighth homer for Texas, which has dropped three in a row but still leads second-place Houston by 3.5. The hottest team in the big leagues is the last-place team in the AL West, Oakland, which took down Tampa Bay 2-1 for its seventh straight win. Brent Rooker went 2-for-3 with an RBI double for the A’s; he is hitting .265 with 13 homers for the 19-50 club. The loss by the AL East-leading Rays enabled Baltimore to move within 4 games of the top with an 11-6 victory against Toronto. Adam Frazier went 2-for-5 with his eighth homer and three RBIs for the second-place Orioles, who have won five in a row. Also worth noting: Ex-Bulldogs star and big league pitcher Jeff Brantley, now a Cincinnati broadcaster, has had a lot to bark about lately as the Reds, infused with young talent, have won four straight. They beat Kansas City 5-4 Tuesday and are 33-35, very much back in the race in the National League Central.

12 Jun

here and there

Southern Miss, which plays Tennessee today in Hattiesburg for a trip to the College World Series, isn’t just a Mississippi-based team. It’s a Mississippi-fueled team. Twenty Magnolia State natives dot the roster, including regulars Dustin Dickerson, Slade Wilks, Nick Monistere, Carson Paetow and Tate Parker. Today’s probable starter, Nikko Mazza, is also a state product. Incidentally, USM’s 2009 team, the only one to make it to Omaha, also featured 20 Mississippi natives, most notably Brian Dozier, future big league star. … Also vying for a CWS trip today is Stanford, playing a Game 3 at home against Texas. Former Madison Central standout Braden Montgomery, an All–Pac-12 selection this year, is 4-for-9 with a walk and pair of runs in that Super Regional. … Former USM pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, already has booked a trip to the CWS; he was brilliant (eight shutout innings, 13 strikeouts) in the Gators’ clincher vs. South Carolina on Saturday. … Twice on their just-completed homestand the Mississippi Braves took the field with a chance to reach .500 for the first time since mid-April. Twice they lost. Biloxi, which got five shutout innings from rehabbing big leaguer Wade Miley, beat the M-Braves 5-4 Sunday at Trustmark Park, dropping the home team to 27-29. The M-Braves started the season 3-2 but then went on an eight-game skid and have been fighting their way back ever since. … Mississippi native — and former M-Braves radio voice — Ben Ingram will do the TV play-by-play on Bally Sports South for Atlanta’s three-game series at Detroit. Ingram is moving over from the radio booth for this short road trip. … Congrats to Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe, who became a first-time father last week. The veteran outfielder out of Mississippi State returned to the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup on Saturday. … Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College product, got a (needed?) day off Sunday as the Chicago White Sox lost to Miami 6-5. Anderson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and made a critical ninth-inning error that led to three unearned runs in the White Sox’s 5-1 loss to the Marlins on Saturday. Anderson, a 2022 All-Star, is hitting .263 with no home runs and has five errors in 46 games at shortstop with a minus-4 Defensive Runs Saved stat (per FanGraphs). BTW, former MSU star Kendall Graveman blew the save for the White Sox in Sunday’s loss; they are reeling again at 29-38. … MSU alum Brent Rooker hit his 13th homer for Oakland on Sunday as the woeful A’s (17-50) completed a three-game sweep at Milwaukee. After a prolonged cold spell, Rooker has six hits (two homers) in his last 19 at-bats.

07 Jun

in keystone state news …

There were a couple of rare occurrences in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Oakland won a game, just its 13th of the season, and Brent Rooker hit a home run, ending his personal 20-game drought. Former Mississippi State star Rooker, one of the hottest players on the planet in April when he blasted nine home runs, has cooled off of late. He has three homers since the calendar flipped to May, and he hit .198 for the month after finishing April with a .353 average for the season. (Note: He was hitting .333 on May 5 when he went on the MLB Central show to talk hitting with Mark DeRosa.) On the positive side, Rooker has hit safely in three of four games this month and is sitting at .261 with 34 RBIs on the year. The awful A’s, now 13-50, hit four homers all told in their 11-2 win at PNC Park. … Across the Keystone State in Philadelphia, the best display of power might have come in a pregame exhibition by a football player. Before the Phillies put up three hits to beat Detroit 1-0 at Citizens Bank Park, Eagles All-Pro receiver A.J. Brown, the ex-Ole Miss football star, took batting practice and impressed onlookers with a smooth, powerful swing. Brown, a two-sport standout at Starkville High, is the rare prep player to participate in both the Under Armour Football and Baseball All-America Games. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 19th round out of high school in 2016 and signed a pro contract. He worked out for the Padres in extended spring training several times while at Ole Miss but never actually played a pro game. Currently listed at 6 feet 1, 226 pounds, the 25-year-old Brown has teased the idea recently that he might give baseball another shot.