After laboring in Triple-A in 2021 with no big league look, Jacob Waguespack opted to head for Japan to pitch in 2022. He’ll return home as a champion. The former Ole Miss standout registered three saves, including one in Sunday’s 5-4 clincher at Jingu Stadium, to help Orix defeat Yakult 4-2-1 in the Japan Series. It was the first title for Orix since 1996, when Ichiro Suzuki was the Buffaloes’ star player. Waguespack, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, went 2-6 with a 2.97 ERA and five saves in 32 games as a reliever for Orix during the regular season. A Louisiana native, he pitched at Ole Miss from 2013-15, putting up a 3.42 ERA in 40 games, and signed with Philadelphia as a non-drafted free agent after the 2015 season. He was traded to Toronto and made his MLB debut in 2019. In 27 games over two seasons, Waguespack was 5-5, 5.08. He spent the 2021 season at Buffalo, where he had good numbers (7-2, 2.86) as a starter and reliever. He became a free agent last November and signed with Orix of Japan’s Pacific League.
Hopping in the Wayback Machine for a trip to three World Series past, each celebrating an anniversary this fall and each featuring Mississippi connections. Going back 90 years to 1932, we have New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs, a contentious Series swept by the Yankees and made famous by the “Called Shot.” Babe Ruth hit that legendary home run in Game 3. Guy Bush, “The Mississippi Mudcat,” played a tangential role. Aberdeen native Bush, a 19-game winner for the Cubs in 1932, started Game 1 at Yankee Stadium and got shelled: eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. At Wrigley Field for Game 3, in the fifth inning with the score tied at 4-4, Ruth came to the plate. Players on the Cubs bench reportedly were riding Ruth hard; Bush was one of their most vociferous bench jockeys. Ruth made a gesture with a finger, possibly pointing toward center field, possibly pointing at the Cubs’ bench. Accounts differ, but not about what happened next. He homered to right-center field. New York won Game 3 7-5. Bush started again in Game 4. In the first inning, he gave up two hits, hit Ruth with a pitch, yielded a sac fly and walked the next batter. He was pulled. His ERA for the series: 14.29. Three years later, as fate would have it, Bush yielded the last two home runs of Ruth’s career, ensuring that the pair will be forever linked. … Sixty years ago, we have Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants, a seven-game classic that ended in OMG fashion. Jackson native Marshall Bridges, the “Sheriff,” was a relief pitcher for New York. Ex-Southern Miss star Jim “Peanut” Davenport played third base for the Giants. Neither had a great Series. Bridges posted a 4.91 ERA in two appearances, surrendering a grand slam to Chuck Hiller in a Game 4 loss. Davenport went 3-for-22 with one RBI. Both were watching when Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s line drive to end Game 7, a 1-0 Yankees victory, with the winning run in scoring position. … Thirty years ago, in the 1992 Toronto-Atlanta Fall Classic, no Mississippi native or college alum saw the field. But a current Mississippi connection put on quite the show in a losing cause. It should come as no surprise perhaps that Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders, aka “Prime Time,” would thrive on the big stage for the Braves. Sanders played in four of the six games, going 8-for-15 with two walks, four runs, an RBI and five stolen bases. Oh, and he was also playing for the Atlanta Falcons that fall; he skipped a road football game (a 56-17 loss at San Francisco) to play for the Braves in Atlanta on Oct. 18, going 1-for-3 in the Game 2 loss. Strange but true. P.S. The Mississippi connection in this year’s World Series won’t take the field but will have a great view: Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is Philadelphia’s infield coach.
Among the smattering of home runs hit by Mississippians in pro ball on Friday was a milestone blast by Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs hit his 150th career homer for Milwaukee, which lost to Chicago 8-7 at a windy Wrigley Field. Renfroe’s 22nd homer of the season carried 427 feet to center field. In just his sixth full season (counting 2020 as a full season), he currently sits 10th on the all-time home run list of Mississippi-born players in MLB. Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for eighth at 160. The rest of the list: Ellis Burks 352, Dave Parker 339, George Scott 271, Chet Lemon 215, Brian Dozier 192, Mitch Moreland 186 and Dmitri Young 171. Corey Dickerson, from McComb, now playing for St. Louis, is second to Renfroe on the active list with 132 homers, four this season. (Moreland hasn’t officially retired but has not played this season.) … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, hit career bomb No. 90 for Atlanta in a big 6-2 win against Houston in their World Series “rematch.” Riley has 31 on the year, his fourth in the big leagues. At Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore system, MSU alum Jordan Westburg hit his 10th homer for that club and 19th total in 2022. At Double-A Hartford (Colorado), former Bulldogs standout Hunter Stovall hit his ninth of the season. And at Low-A Visalia (Arizona), ex-Ole Miss star Kevin Graham hit homer No. 2 in his 10th career game. P.S. Toronto is interested in Billy Hamilton, according to a report. The veteran outfielder from Taylorsville recently became a free agent after Miami sent him to the minors. Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, the dash-fast Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Speed never slumps.
St. Louis appears to be the new home for Corey Dickerson, the McComb native and Meridian Community College alumnus, a .283 career hitter who has played for four different teams the past three seasons and six all told since 2013. The 32-year-old outfielder reportedly has agreed to a 1-year, $5 million deal with the Cardinals. Dickerson, a left-handed hitter, joins an outfield mix that includes Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar. O’Neill and Nootbaar are also lefty hitters. Dickerson was an All-Star in 2017 and won a Gold Glove in left field in 2018. He has 128 career home runs — 27 in one season — but isn’t considered a bomber. He hit .282 for Toronto down the stretch last season, helping the Blue Jays make a playoff push that ultimately fell short. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves star Chris Ellis has signed a minor league deal with Baltimore; he posted a 2.49 ERA in six starts for the Orioles in 2021.
In a lineup packed with attention-grabbing stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien and George Springer, Corey Dickerson has been a quiet but steady contributor for Toronto. The former Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College standout went 2-for-4 with a home run Friday night as the Blue Jays beat Baltimore 6-4 to remain in the thick of the battle royale for the two American League wild card berths. Dickerson, who provides a left-handed bat in a largely right-handed order, is batting .333 over his last 15 games, .364 with two homers in his last seven. Toronto traded with Miami for the nine-year veteran, along with reliever Adam Cimber, back in late June. A foot injury kept Dickerson on the injured list until early August. He settled in quickly, driving in two runs in his second game. In 45 games overall for the Jays, he is at .289 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 16 runs. Toronto is tied with Seattle, 1 game back of Boston and 2 behind New York in the wild card standings with two games left on the schedule. Meanwhile, former Mississippi State standout Hunter Renfroe’s 31st homer broke a scoreless deadlock in the sixth inning and propelled Boston to a 4-2 win over Washington. Renfroe has three homers in the past four games. P.S. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn notched his 11th win and East Central CC alum Tim Anderson went 4-for-4 as the playoff-bound Chicago White Sox beat Detroit. … Ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson, in his second game since returning from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings for playoff-bound St. Louis in a win against the Cubs. … Mississippi Braves alum Spencer Strider made his MLB debut for Atlanta on Friday, completing an impressive step-by-step rise from Low-A ball to the big leagues this season. The hard-throwing right-hander, a 2020 draftee, was 3-7, 4.71 ERA for the Double-A M-Braves but demonstrated impressive stuff with 94 strikeouts in 63 innings.
Four Mississippians took the field in four of the biggest games on a compelling Tuesday night in the big leagues. Their results were a mixed bag. Only former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley celebrated a win, but he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and four stranded runners in Atlanta’s gut-churning 2-1 victory against Philadelphia in the crucial National League East showdown. Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, hit his 29th home run for Boston but saw his team lose to Baltimore and fall 2 games back of first-place New York in the crazy American League wild card race. Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson had a double and an RBI for Toronto, but the Blue Jays lost to the Yankees and slipped to fourth in the wild card standings, behind both Boston and surging Seattle. MSU alum Brandon Woodruff started for Milwaukee but lasted just four innings in the Brewers’ loss to St. Louis, which won for the 17th straight time and clinched the second NL wild card in the process. The Brewers have already clinched the Central Division crown. The big games continue tonight with the Braves, leading Philly by 3.5 games, sending ex-Mississippi Braves star Max Fried (13-7, 3.12 ERA) to the bump at Truist Park. P.S. Houston, which has not yet clinched the AL West, put State product Kendall Graveman, one of its key relievers, on the paternity list on Tuesday. The Astros, with a magic number of 1 to put away Seattle, are hosting AL East champion Tampa Bay. Houston won the series opener 4-3 on a walk-off walk. The Mariners are hosting Oakland.
Buried in the box score of a dreary performance by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday there is a bright spot. Petal High alumnus Anthony Alford went 2-for-4 and scored the Pirates’ lone run (on a wild pitch) in a 13-1 loss to Cincinnati. Since getting a second chance with the Bucs this season, Alford has made the most of it. The 27-year-old outfielder is batting .300 (.378 on-base percentage) over his past 15 games. He has boosted his season average to .229 and has five homers, 10 RBIs, 13 runs and five stolen bases in 43 games. In four previous MLB trials, dating back to his debut with Toronto in 2017, Alford had never played more than 18 games. Injuries — and poor performance — have hounded him. After an awful start with Pittsburgh this season, Alford was designated for assignment, taken off the 40-man roster and shipped to the minors in April. He responded by batting .307 with 14 homers at Triple-A Indianapolis. When the Pirates had a need in early August, they brought Alford back. “That’s never an easy thing to do,” he recently told dkpittsburghsports.com. “Overcoming that, staying positive, making those adjustments.” He made a brief detour to the injured list in mid-August but has managed to stay healthy since. He’s likely fighting for a 2022 job. Pittsburgh keeps running him out there, which is a good sign.
In his first season with Boston, Hunter Renfroe is rubbing elbows (virtually, of course) with Red Sox legends. In a jaw-dropping performance on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, in the heat of the battle for playoff spots, former Mississippi State star Renfroe hit a game-turning home run and made a game-ending throw. The Red Sox beat division rival Tampa Bay 2-1 and moved into first place – ahead of New York – in the American League wild card race. Renfroe, cut loose by the Rays after the 2020 season, launched a two-run homer in the eighth inning to put the Sox ahead. “There’s your magic, baby,” screamed one of the Boston broadcasters. There was more to come. In the ninth, Renfroe scrambled into deep center field to run down a ball hit by Joey Wendle and fired a cannon shot to nail Wendle at third base to end the game. It was the second assist of the night for Renfroe, who has 16 on the season, the most by a Boston right fielder since at least 1961, per mlb.com. Move over Dwight Evans. Renfroe’s homer was his 27th. He is just the sixth player in Boston’s long history with 25-plus homers and 15-plus assists in a season, again per mlb.com. Others on the list: Jason Bay, Manny Ramirez, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams. Renfroe is batting .267 and slugging .515 with 85 RBIs. He has 12 bombs since Aug. 1. “What he’s done for us this season, it’s been amazing,” manager Joey Cora said in an mlb.com piece. P.S. In other impactful games, MSU product Adam Frazier, in need of some big hits, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in San Diego’s 8-5 win against the Los Angeles Angels. In a funk since joining the Padres at the trade deadline, Frazier doubled his RBI total and raised his average to .235 in 35 games with his new club, which is clinging to second in the National League wild card chase. … At Yankee Stadium, in red-hot Toronto’s 6-3 win over the skidding Yankees, Jarrod Dyson did what Jarrod Dyson do: The McComb native entered the game late as a pinch runner, scored on a sac fly and then ended the game with a diving catch in center field. The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by 1.5 games for the second AL wild card.
Tonight’s marquee game in the big leagues has to be Toronto at New York, slated to be televised by MLB Network at 6:05 CDT from Yankee Stadium. Three Mississippians are among the cast: McComb natives and Mississippi junior college products Corey Dickerson and Jarrod Dyson play for the suddenly sizzling Blue Jays; Louisville native and East Central CC product Marcus Thames is the hitting coach for the Jekyll-and-Hyde Yankees, currently in an ugly slide. The Blue Jays (75-62) have won six in a row and nine of 10 to move within 2 games of the second wild card berth in the American League. They lead all of MLB in homers and have hit seven in the first two games of this series. The Yankees, who had ripped off a 13-game win streak that moved them to the top of the wild card standings, have dropped four straight and eight of 10. New York (78-60) lost the first two games of this series 8-0 and 5-1, failing to record a walk or an extra-base hit in successive games for only the fourth time in team history. Dickerson (Meridian CC) is batting .277 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games for the Jays since he was acquired in a trade with Miami. He’ll lead off tonight against Yankees rookie right-hander Luis Gil. Dyson (Southwest CC), a recent waiver claim from Kansas City, serves mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He is at .220 for the season with 10 steals, two for Toronto. It’s surely been a frustrating season for Thames, in his fourth year as the Yanks’ hitting coach. A lineup loaded with sluggers ranks 11th in the league in scoring, first in grounding into double plays and seventh in strikeouts. Only one batter in tonight’s lineup is batting above .266.
Boston will be without slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe again tonight when it takes on first-place Tampa Bay in the opener of a big, four-game American League East series. Renfroe’s father and “best friend,” Todd, died from cancer last Thursday and the Crystal Springs native has been on bereavement leave since then. He had eight hits – four homers – over a seven-game stretch Aug. 17-25 and is batting .258 with 25 homers overall. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe was cut loose by the Rays after last season and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. … Jarrod Dyson made his Toronto debut on Sunday, entering the game against Detroit as a pinch runner, then staying in to play center field. The Blue Jays are team No. 7 on the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout’s career list. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley returned from the injured list for Cleveland over the weekend, going 2-for-9 in a series against Boston. Bradley is at .214 with 11 homers for the season with the Indians, clinging to wild card hopes in the AL. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin has been on Cleveland’s 10-day IL since Aug. 12 with no clear date for a return for the rookie right-hander. He reportedly is working out in Arizona. … Though there are no reports of an injury, MSU product Mitch Moreland did not leave the bench during the last three games of Oakland’s four-game series vs. the New York Yankees. Moreland is batting .227 with 10 homers. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton continued his rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, going 1-for-3 Sunday. He is 3-for-19 with one stolen base in six games for the Chicago White Sox’s top affiliate. … Dakota Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago, made a rehab start for St. Louis’ Class A Palm Beach team on Saturday. The State product worked two scoreless innings, throwing 24 pitches and hitting 94 mph. … Former State star Jonathan Holder made his second rehab appearance of 2021 on Friday, yielding a homer in one inning for the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa club.