07 Jul

star gazing

Garrett Crochet, the Ocean Springs High product who leads the American League in strikeouts, was justly rewarded with a spot on the American League All-Star team. Crochet is 6-6 with a 3.08 ERA and 146K’s for the Chicago White Sox. The rosters were announced Sunday on ESPN; there will be changes before the game is played on July 16 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Also making the AL team was former Biloxi Shuckers pitcher Corbin Burnes, now with Baltimore. He is 9-3, 2.32. Former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, made the National League roster as a reserve. Ex-M-Braves catcher William Contreras, now with Milwaukee, previously was voted in as a starter by fans. … The full list of Home Run Derby (July 15) participants has yet to be revealed. It would be a treat to see Nathaniel Lowe of the hometown Texas Rangers, Brent Rooker, Hunter Renfroe or Austin Riley in the derby. Each of those Mississippi products has light-tower power. … Magnolia Heights High product Cooper Pratt is slated to participate in the July 13 All-Star Futures Game for minor league prospects at Globe Life. He is No. 4 on Milwaukee’s chart. … The All-Star festivities get started on July 12 with the HBCU Swingman Classic. The Magnolia State will be well-represented with six Jackson State players and one each from Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State on the rosters. This is the second annual all-star game for players from NCAA Division I historically black schools. JSU’s Joseph Eichelberger, Robert Tate Jr., Lenny Montesano, Rodney Hibler Jr., Christian Womble and Isaiah Williams are joined on the rosters by Valley’s Dreylin Holmes and Alcorn’s Garrett Palladino. Former big leaguers Ken Griffey Sr. and Lloyd McClendon will manage the two teams. … Of note: The only other time the Texas Rangers hosted the All-Star Game was 1995, when former Mississippi State standout Buck Showalter managed the AL team in a 3-2 loss at The Ballpark in Arlington. He was manager of the New York Yankees, who had the best record in the AL when the 1994 season was halted by a players strike.

15 Jul

enter the fray

The All-Mississippi Home Run Derby competition should be fun to watch down the stretch of the 2023 season. Austin Riley and Brent Rooker — a pair of All-Stars — lead the way with 16 home runs each, topping Hunter Renfroe by one. Suddenly, on Friday, a rather unexpected contender threw his hat in the ring with those heavyweights. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier hit two homers for Baltimore in a 5-2 win over Miami. It was the first multi-homer game for Frazier in his eight MLB seasons and gave him 12 for the year, bettering his career-high by two. The lefty-hitting infielder hit 10 homers in 2018 and ’19 when he was with Pittsburgh. The Orioles signed him as a free agent in the off-season to add some veteran presence to their young roster. The power Frazier has supplied has been a bonus for the O’s, who have won six straight to reach 55-35, second in the American League East. “Yeah, it’s surprising,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde told mlb.com about Frazier’s power production. “(I)t’s been huge for us.” Frazier is batting .240 with 44 RBIs and 41 runs. … Riley, the DeSoto Central High product, led all Mississippians in the majors (natives or school alums) with 38 homers in 2022. He is off that pace this season, but a sudden surge would not be a surprise. MSU alum Renfroe hit 29 last season, two more than fellow former Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe. Lowe is sitting on 10 at present. P.S. Former DeSoto Central slugger Blaze Jordan went 0-for-3 with a walk in his Double-A debut Friday for Portland in the Boston system. Jordan, 20, had 12 homers in A-ball this season and 30 total in his two-plus pro seasons.

10 Jul

a derby lament

Disappointing — isn’t it? — that no Mississippians are competing in tonight’s Home Run Derby. Austin Riley (DeSoto Central High) and Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), both in Seattle as All-Stars, are capable of a show of power, not to mention Hunter Renfroe (MSU/Crystal Springs), the active leader in career homers by Mississippi natives. Mississippi’s last representative in the contest was Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss product from Fulton who competed in 2014. The only other natives to participate are Grenada’s Dave Parker (1985 — when he won — and 1986) and Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (1996). MSU alum Rafael Palmeiro took part in 1998 and 2004. The Magnolia State has produced some legendary sluggers who never got a crack at MLB’s Home Run Derby. It would have been something special to see Luke Easter take his hacks in a home run contest. The Jonestown native hit 93 homers in the 1950s in a short big league stint and another 247 in the minors; he would have been a Statcast hero had he played in the current era. He reportedly hit a 500-foot bomb in Buffalo’s old Offermann Stadium. Another legendary slugger who never got the chance in an MLB derby was Laurel’s Jack Pierce, who had a brief career in The Show. He hit eight big league bombs back in the 1970s but topped 400 overall in pro ball, most of those in the Mexican League. He is in the Hall of Fame there. George Scott, the “Boomer” from Greenville, also had a knack for the long ball, blasting 271 of them in a 14-year MLB career from 1966-79. And then there’s John Lindsey, a renowned masher from Hattiesburg who never got much of a shot in the big leagues. He reportedly belted 377 homers, many of them tape-measure shots, in his long and winding pro career starting in 1995. Maybe someday in the near future we’ll see Southaven’s Blaze Jordan in the Derby; he made a name for himself as a kid winning home run contests at national youth events. Now 20, he is now in the Boston Red Sox’s system, expected to make his Double-A debut this week.

02 Jul

here it comes …

Baseball fans need to strap in. A rollicking good time is ahead, particularly for devoted followers of all things Mississippi. Aside from the usual array of major and minor league games all week — Biloxi is hosting Mississippi on Monday and the M-Braves are at home the rest of the week — Team USA (the college version) is playing a series in the Carolinas against Chinese Taipei that runs through July 4 and then hooks up against Japan from July 7-12. Braden Montgomery, the former Madison Central High and current Stanford star, is on the Team USA roster. July 7 brings the HBCU Swingman Classic to kick off MLB’s All-Star festivities in Seattle. Several Mississippi college alums are on the rosters, including Jackson State’s Ty Hill, a Ferriss Trophy finalist this year. July 8 is the All-Star Futures Game, with ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith, a rising Detroit Tigers prospect, scheduled to play at T-Mobile Park. July 9 is the start of the MLB draft, and there are several Mississippians who could go in the first two rounds (see Jacob Gonzalez and Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, Cooper Pratt of Magnolia Heights Academy, Colton Ledbetter of Mississippi State). The draft continues on July 10 and 11. July 10 is the Home Run Derby at T-Mobile; the eight-man lineup has yet to be finalized, but there might be a Mississippian in the field. July 11 brings the Midsummer Classic itself with three Magnolia State products on the rosters plus a plethora of former M-Braves and Biloxi Shuckers. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley made the National League team as a reserve, joined by George County High product Justin Steele, selected to the NL pitching staff. Ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker made the American League squad as a reserve pick.

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.

08 Jul

have a blast

Ronald Acuna, the former Mississippi Braves star, won’t be the only Mississippi-connected player vying for a Home Run Derby crown tonight in Cleveland. DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan is in the final of the High School Home Run Derby, which is slated to be held between rounds 1 and 2 of the big league event at Progressive Field. Jordan hit 20 homers in Sunday’s competition to advance to the final against A.J. Vukovich from Wisconsin. Jordan, a Mississippi State commit, has reclassified to be eligible for the 2020 MLB draft and is expected to go high. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound corner infielder hit 10 homers in 37 games for DeSoto as a sophomore this season. He gained a measure of fame as a 14-year-old 8th-grader when he belted a 504-foot homer to win a national contest at Marlins Park in Miami. … For the record, Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan finished second in the College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., on June 29. Keenan led the Rebels with 15 homers in 2019. … Acuna, who has 21 homers this year and 47 all told in his two MLB campaigns, famously homered in his first at-bat for the M-Braves in 2017. He faces Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell in tonight’s first round. … An mlb.com article rated Bobby Abreu’s victory in the 2005 Home Run Derby as the No. 9 “best moment” in Derby history, which dates to 1985 (when Mississippi native Dave Parker won the inaugural event). Former Jackson Generals star Abreu, who was with Philadelphia at the time, blasted 41 bombs to win the ’05 Derby at Detroit’s Comerica Park. He hit 288 career home runs over 18 MLB seasons. P.S. Current M-Braves star Drew Waters, who somehow didn’t make the roster for the All-Star Futures Game that was played in Cleveland on Sunday night, put on a show at Trustmark Park in Pearl with his fourth four-hit game of the season in a 10-1 win against Biloxi. Waters, 20, a switch-hitting outfielder, is batting .335 with five homers, 31 RBIs, 53 runs, 29 doubles and nine triples.

07 Jun

derby dreamin’

Too bad fans don’t get to pick whom they’d like to see in the MLB Home Run Derby. San Diego fans – and no doubt a bunch of folks in Mississippi, too – would surely cast votes for Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs. Not only can the 6-foot-1, 220-pound outfielder really mash, but he is deserving of the recognition, ranking among the MLB leaders in homers with 18. He hit his latest on Thursday, a 422-footer at Petco Park that helped the Padres beat Washington 5-4. In this year of the long ball, Renfroe is on pace to shatter his season-best of 26, a mark he reached each of the last two seasons. He has 74 career homers, averaging one every 14.3 at-bats. (Giancarlo Stanton’s average is 13.8.) Injuries have thinned the Padres’ once-crowded outfield, and Renfroe has reaped the benefits of regular duty. He is batting .250 with 35 RBIs and 26 runs in 57 games. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier, who was the last Mississippian to participate in the home run derby in 2014, hit his ninth homer of the year Thursday for the Nationals. Grenada native Dave Parker won the first derby competition in 1985. The only other Mississippians to compete are Ellis Burks in 1996 and Rafael Palmeiro in 2002. The 2019 derby is set for July 8 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

16 Jul

ode to power

Power excites. It’s why people will turn out and tune in for tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby. Let’s see some dingers. Power brings to mind Ruth and Aaron and Bonds. Mantle, Mays and McGwire. Well, how about Burks, Parker and Pierce? When it comes to Mississippi natives and power, there are several who deserve to be remembered. Consider the credentials of Ellis Burks, Dave Parker, Jack Pierce, John Lindsey and Luke Easter, a Mount Rushmore plus one of Magnolia State mashers. Burks, from Vicksburg, is the all-time leader among Mississippi natives for MLB home runs. He hit 352 in a career that began in the mid-1980s, with four seasons of 31 or more and a high of 40. He participated in one Home Run Derby, in 1996. Parker, from Grenada, is No. 2 on the career list with 339 – and he won the very first All-Star Game Home Run Derby in 1985. A massive man, he used to swing a sledge hammer in the on-deck circle. Laurel native Pierce hit only eight big league bombs back in the 1970s but is credited by some sources with 395 minor league home runs, most of those in the Triple-A level Mexican League, where he is a legend. He hit 101 in affiliated minor league ball. Hattiesburg’s Lindsey, who only recently retired, crushed 377 homers all told in pro ball, including 232 in the affiliated minor leagues. Sadly, he did not homer in his handful of MLB games. Easter, from Jonestown, hit 93 big league homers in the 1950s, another 247 in a long minor league career and five (officially) in two short stints in the old Negro Leagues. He hit some legendary bombs, including a 500-footer in Buffalo’s long-gone Offermann Stadium and a 477-footer in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium. That’s a power five that could put on a spectacular Home Run Derby – if only in the imagination. P.S. Aside from Parker and Burks, Brian Dozier, from Fulton, is the only other Mississippi native to hit in the Home Run Derby. That was in 2014, at his home field in Minnesota, two years before he belted 42 bombs, a record for a second baseman. Not considered a slugger, per se, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Dozier has 167 homers over seven seasons.

13 Jul

star gazing

Mississippi native Dave Parker won the very first MLB Home Run Derby, held in 1985 at the Metrodome in Minnesota in conjunction with the All-Star Game. Parker was with Cincinnati at the time and in the 13th of his 19 big league seasons, during which he belted 339 home runs, second all-time to Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (352) among Mississippi natives. In the ’85 derby, Parker hit six bombs in his two, five-out “innings,” beating a field that included Eddie Murray, Jim Rice and Dale Murphy. The revamped (yet again) derby is slated for tonight at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. … Brian Dozier is the first Mississippi native to make the All-Star Game since Roy Oswalt was picked for the National League squad in 2007. Dozier, who was born in Tupelo and went to Itawamba AHS in Fulton before starring at Southern Miss, is in Cincinnati as an injury replacement pick, but the Minnesota second baseman certainly is having an All-Star-worthy season. He has 19 homers, 50 RBIs and 67 runs for the second-best team in the American League. Oswalt, from Weir, made three straight Midsummer Classics for Houston starting in 2005. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Papelbon, who has made six All-Star Games, was the winning pitcher in the 2009 game at St. Louis. Then with Boston, Papelbon pitched a clean seventh inning with the score tied 3-3. Adam Jones’ sac fly in the eighth put the AL stars ahead, and they won 4-3. Papelbon is now with Philadelphia and on the NL roster. … The most memorable of the four previous All-Star Games to be held in Cincinnati would have to be the 1970 contest, which ended when Reds star Pete Rose crushed Ray Fosse at home plate with two outs in the 12th inning and scored the winning run for the National League. Yazoo City native Jerry Moses was on the AL team but didn’t play in his only trip to the Midsummer Classic. However, had Rose been out at the plate – the throw actually beat him, but Fosse couldn’t hold the ball after the collision — and the game extended, Moses likely would have replaced the injured Fosse at catcher. The AL’s only other catcher was Bill Freehan, who had started and departed the game. Moses hit .263 with six homers for Boston in 1970, the only season of his nine in MLB in which he got more than 200 at-bats. The Red Sox were one of seven teams Moses played for.

06 Jul

star charts

While we wait to see if Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier is picked for his first All-Star Game and if ex-Mississippi Braves star Brian McCann gets to make an eighth appearance, here’s what we do know about the upcoming All-Star buffet: Biloxi’s Orlando Arcia, one of Milwaukee’s top prospects, is headed to the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 12 in Cincinnati. Arcia, a shortstop from Venezuela, is batting .313 with four homers, 42 RBIs and 10 steals for the Double-A Shuckers. And Louis Coleman, the former Pillow Academy star and Greenwood native, is on the Pacific Coast League roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is July 15 in Omaha. Coleman, 29, is 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA and six saves for Omaha in the Kansas City system. He has a 3.25 ERA over 148 major league games with the Royals, though he is no longer on the 40-man roster. … The MLB Home Run Derby contestants have not been finalized, but former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland would be a good choice. He has 14 homers for Texas this season and has hit some mammoth blasts in his career. The revamped derby is slated July 13 at Cincy’s Great American Ballpark, a great hitter’s park. P.S. Seth Smith, the ex-Ole Miss standout, delivered in the clutch for Seattle on Sunday, stroking a two-out, two-run single on a 3-2 pitch and propelling the Mariners to a 2-1 win at Oakland. “I loved playing (at O.Co Coliseum) when I was with the A’s and especially day games have a good buzz,” Smith told mlb.com. Smith is 9-for-27 with a homer and five RBIs this year against the A’s, one of the four teams he has played for the last five years. He is batting .257 on the season with seven homers.