04 Oct

these are the moments

The regular season is a wrap. Before the second season starts, here’s a tip of the cap to the best moments of 2021 by a Mississippian in the majors:
Best hit: Tim Anderson’s walk-off home run in the inaugural Field of Dreams Game on Aug. 12. The former East Central Community College star’s blast into the Iowa cornfield will endure as one of the great moments in this or any season.
Best pitch: Spencer Turnbull’s final fastball to Mitch Hanigar, which produced a swing and a miss and completed the Madison Central High product’s no-hitter on May 18. The no-no was the first ever in MLB by a Mississippian (native or school alum).
Best throw: Hunter Renfroe’s laser from deep center field to nail a runner at third base for the final out in a 2-1 Boston win on Sept. 8. It was the second assist of the game for the former Mississippi State star, who also homered to put the Red Sox ahead.
Best debut: Nick Fortes, who singled in his first career at-bat on Sept. 18, hit a home run in his second AB later in that game. The ex-Ole Miss standout was one of six Mississippians who debuted in 2021. Worth noting: George County High alum Justin Steele struck out the first batter he faced, and Delta State alum Trent Giambrone got a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat.

02 Oct

a good fit

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.

23 Sep

follow the leader

Here’s a very interesting and very telling statistic about the 2021 Chicago White Sox: Heading into the first game of a twinbill at Cleveland today, the White Sox were 32-4 when Tim Anderson drove in at least one run. So, yeah, it was a pretty good omen when the former East Central Community College star led off with a home run. The White Sox (86-66) rolled on to a 7-2 victory that clinched the American League Central championship, their first in 13 years. Anderson finished 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs. For the year, the dynamic All-Star shortstop is batting .306 with 16 bombs, 58 RBIs, 90 runs and 17 stolen bases. He might not be the league MVP, but he is certainly the straw that stirs the ChiSox’s drink. Former Ocean Spring High standout Garrett Crochet got a couple of outs in the game. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, both contributors in their first year with the club, didn’t play but were on the field for the largely subdued postgame celebration. They had another game to play.

18 Sep

in the spotlight

In his first game since becoming a father, Brent Rooker doubled and homered to help Minnesota cool off Toronto in a key American League game on Friday night. Former Mississippi State standout Rooker came off the paternity list to hit his eighth homer of the year and drive in two runs as the last-place Twins beat the Blue Jays 7-3 and knocked them back to third in the AL wild card race. Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, had two hits and scored a run for the Blue Jays. … Elsewhere in the playoff chase: MSU product Hunter Renfroe drove in three runs and scored another as AL wild card leader Boston whipped Baltimore 7-1. East Central CC alumnus Tim Anderson went 1-for-3 and scored twice as AL Central leader Chicago thumped Texas 8-0. Former State star Kendall Graveman blew a save — just his third of the season — in the eighth inning, but AL West leader Houston rallied to beat Arizona 4-3 in 10 innings. Former Biloxi Shuckers outfielder Brett Phillips hit a walk-off homer — and celebrated as you might expect only him to do — to give AL East leader Tampa Bay a 7-4 win vs. Detroit. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Nick Fortes was called up by Miami on Friday and likely will make his MLB debut today against Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old catcher, a fourth-round pick in 2018, hit .245 with seven homers and 44 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season. The Marlins reportedly want to give him a closer look as they plan for next season. Fortes will be the fifth Mississippian (native or school alum) to debut in 2021 and the 29th to make a big league appearance this season.

15 Sep

ah, september

Emotion bubbles up — and sometimes over — in September, when MLB games matter more. There’s the elation of clinching a playoff berth (see the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday) and there’s the frustration of dropping critical games (see Pete Alonso of the New York Mets snapping a bat over his knee). Mississippians Austin Riley, Corey Dickerson and Adam Frazier felt the frustration Tuesday. Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, and his Atlanta teammates lost 5-4 at home to Colorado; the Braves have a less-than-comfortable lead in the National League East. Riley went 1-for-4 and left two runners on base. McComb native Dickerson took an 0-for-3 in Toronto’s 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay; the Blue Jays, who have been on quite a roll, slipped into a three-way tie with Boston and New York for the two American League wild card berths. Mississippi State product Frazier, who has scuffled since being acquired by San Diego from Pittsburgh, was on the losing side of a 6-1 game at San Francisco; the Padres are a game back of a wild card spot in the NL. Frazier, an All-Star this summer, was 1-for-2 but is batting just .231 as a Padre. Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and dropped a fly ball, but his night ended well when Boston rallied to beat Seattle, another AL wild card contender. Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson had a somewhat frustrating return to the active roster — 1-for-5 and an error — but his Chicago White Sox team did beat the Los Angeles Angels to stay on track for the AL Central title. It has been a frustrating season for MSU alums Chris Stratton and Nate Lowe, but both enjoyed playing spoiler on Tuesday. Stratton notched his fifth save — and third in his last three outings — as last-place Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 6-5, dropping the Reds behind St. Louis in the NL wild card standings. Lowe hit a first-inning homer, his 15th, to propel last-place Texas to an 8-1 victory against Zack Greinke and Houston, still trying to clinch the AL West. P.S. Down on the farm, ex-State and Brandon High standout J.T. Ginn took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and earned his third win of the season for High-A Brooklyn in the New York Mets’ chain. Ginn (3-3, 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Cyclones) worked seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.

23 Aug

around the horn

Not so long ago, New York Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star, was on a hot seat, as was manager Aaron Boone. For the better part of three months, the club struggled to score, foundering with runners in scoring position, frequently striking out or hitting into double plays. Well, that seems like ancient history now. The Yankees, finally fit and fortified with new additions to the lineup, are sizzling hot as they head into Truist Park in Atlanta, where the eyes of the baseball world will be on a two-game series between the hottest teams in the game. Both have won nine straight. The Yankees have climbed to 72-52, second in the American League East. The Braves are 68-56, first in the National League East. … Atlanta’s Mississippi connection, third baseman Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product, is batting .342 during the win streak, with four homers, six RBIs and nine runs. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, now with Houston, faced his former team, Seattle, for the first time on Sunday. He gave up a run in his one inning but maintained the lead, which the Astros later squandered en route to a 6-3, extra-inning loss. Graveman has allowed two runs in nine innings for the Astros; he had a 0.82 ERA in 30 appearances for the Mariners. Graveman was upset when Seattle traded him in late July. … In his third game at Low-A Salem, former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan hit his second homer, this one a grand slam. The first-year pro is 3-for-11 for Salem after hitting .362 with four homers for Boston’s Florida Complex League team. … Just in time for the start of fall classes, Alcorn State has hired a new coach. Reggie Williams, a former major league outfielder, was named last Friday to fill the post previously held by Brett Richardson. He was not retained after a 7-20 season. Williams is a Southern University alum who played in the big leagues in the 1980s. He previously worked as an instructor and coach in the Cincinnati and Milwaukee organizations and was also an educator in the Memphis school system. Three of the state’s HBCUs will have new coaches in 2022. Stanley Stubbs moves from Rust College to Mississippi Valley State, and John Bates was promoted from Stubbs’ staff to replace him as Bearcats coach. … Three Mississippians were on the West roster for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego: outfielder Emaarion “Mari” Boyd of South Panola, outfielder Dakota Jordan of Jackson Academy and catcher Ross Highfill of Madison Central. All are 2022 seniors. The West was no-hit by the East in a 9-1 defeat at Petco Park.

21 Aug

roll the tape

When the American League MVP voters begin to ponder their choice for 2021, they need to punch up the video from Friday night’s Chicago White Sox-Tampa Bay game. To appreciate the many talents of ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, “show ’em this game today,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said in an mlb.com story. In a clash of first-place clubs, Anderson went 3-for-6 with a home run, scored four times and drove in two runs in a 7-5, extra-inning win. One of the runs he scored came on an acrobatic slide to avoid a tag at the plate. The homer — his 14th — tied the game in the ninth after the White Sox had squandered a lead. In the 11th, he knocked in the go-ahead run and scored the final one. He has 51 RBIs and 78 runs, batting mainly in the leadoff spot. He is hitting .303 and has a 10-game hit streak in which he has batted .388 with four bombs, including that game-winner in the Field of Dreams Game. “(T)he confidence is at an all-time high,” he said postgame. The All-Star shortstop, eight years after leading ECCC to the state juco title, is leading the White Sox to their first division title since 2008. Said La Russa in the mlb.com piece: “There’s nobody in the league, either league, that’s better than he is when you look at the whole game.” Sounds like an MVP. P.S. Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, made his first appearance of 2021 Friday on a rehab assignment (one inning, no runs) in the Arizona Complex League. Signed by the Cubs in the off-season, Holder has been down with a shoulder injury. The Cubs could use some help.

13 Aug

center stage

“Baseball, among many other things, is theater, a definition that mandates that a very small number of players will be strikingly distinctive because of productivity and ‘presence.’” – Donald Honig, Baseball America.
There has never been a stage quite like the one MLB created for Thursday night’s Field of Dreams Game. A cornfield in Iowa. So, of course, leave it to Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star who relishes the spotlight as much as any player in the game, to bring down the curtain with a game-ending home run into the corn stalks beyond right field. You might call it a Roy Hobbs moment, though that’s from a different movie than the one that inspired this game. Anderson’s second career walk-off bomb gave the Chicago White Sox a 9-8 win against the New York Yankees. “These are the moments you want to be in,” Anderson, the effervescent leader of these Sox, said in a postgame interview. “These big games like this, this is the time to show up.” The game actually lived up to the hype, which was not easy to do. There were five lead changes. Though 17 runs crossed the plate, pitchers also enjoyed some moments with 23 strikeouts. Anderson’s game-winner was the last of eight balls that left the park and crash-landed in the cornfield. Dramatic doesn’t quite get it. As Ray Kinsella might have said, “It’s more than that. It’s perfect.”

12 Aug

cornfield connections

Three Mississippi products are on the Chicago White Sox’s active roster for tonight’s Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn is slated to be the ChiSox’s starting pitcher, ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson is the shortstop and probable leadoff batter and Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet works out of the bullpen. (Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is currently on the injured list.) For the record, there also was a Mississippian on the infamous 1919 White Sox team that is central to the story in the “Field of Dreams” movie, though he is not one of the eight who come out of the cornfield. Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell was a Jackson native who pitched for the White Sox for seven years, winning 80 games from 1913-19, including a 23-win rookie season. The left-hander was on the 1917 club that won the World Series. Russell injured his arm in 1918 and made just one appearance for the 1919 team; he was released long before the World Series that the Black Sox were accused of throwing. Russell would return to the majors in 1922 as an outfielder with Pittsburgh and earn a dignified place in the history books. He hit 11 homers that season. Only two other players have ever posted both a double-digit win season and a double-digit homer season: Babe Ruth and Rick Ankiel. Shohei Ohtani could be the next to do it. P.S. Cleveland has placed former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin on the injured list, where he joins teammate Bobby Bradley, the Harrison Central High product. Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz was put on the IL for the third time this season by San Diego.

20 Jul

that’s consistency

Tim Anderson was playing like an All-Star before he was named as a late addition to the American League squad. Nothing has changed since. The East Central Community College product went into the break on a 12-game hit streak that started before he was named to the team for the first time. As if he needed to validate his selection, he has hit safely in all four games he has played since the break and has homered in three straight for the first-place Chicago White Sox. “(He) is one of the big reasons why we are where we are,” manager Tony LaRussa told The Associated Press. Anderson has 12 hits in his last seven games, 28 during his 16-game streak and is batting .394 over that stretch. For the year, Anderson, in his sixth season as the White Sox’s regular shortstop, is batting .314 with nine homers, 36 RBIs, 61 runs and 14 stolen bases. Anderson will look to extend his streak when Chicago hosts Minnesota today. The club record for a hitting streak is 28, held by Carlos Lee (2004). P.S. Petal’s Demarcus Evans was recalled by Texas on Sunday, threw two scoreless innings, then was optioned back to Triple-A Monday. Thanks for playing.