Brent Rooker, the latest in a string of sluggers Mississippi State has propelled to the big leagues, hit his first home run on Tuesday in Minnesota’s loss to St. Louis in Game 2 of a twinbill. He’ll likely hit a few more. Rooker has been rated one of the top power-hitting prospects in the Twins’ system since he was drafted out of Starkville in 2017. He has 54 minor league bombs in 259 games, and he blasted a tape-measure shot in Tokyo in a Team USA game last fall. Rooker hit 23 homers at State in his All-America junior season and 36 over his three-year career. So, yes, he’s got pop. The all-time leader in homers by a State alum is, of course, Rafael Palmeiro, who ranks 13th on MLB’s career chart with 569. Coincidentally, Palmeiro hit his first career homer on this date in 1986. He played 20 years. Second on the all-Bulldogs list is Will Clark with 284, followed by the active leader, Mitch Moreland, who has 174, including eight in 2020. Hunter Renfroe, who has six homers this year, stands at 95 career. Tyler Moore topped out at 30 after a promising start to his career. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his Chicago Cubs debut on Tuesday as a defensive replacement in center field, a role that figures to be his primary. The speedy Hamilton was a waiver claim from the New York Mets this week and reportedly would be eligible for the postseason.
On this date in 2001, Vicksburg native Ellis Burks – the all-time home run leader among Mississippi-born players — hit three home runs in a game for Cleveland, accomplishing a pretty neat feat that’s not as rare as one might think. A three-(or four-)homer game has been done more than 600 times, with quite a few players having hit three in a game multiple times. (Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa did it six times each!) The list of Mississippians with a three-jack game numbers seven. The first was Hal Lee from Ludlow, who slugged his way onto the list in 1934 while with the Boston Braves. The most recent was Hunter Renfroe, who hit three for San Diego on June 14 of last year, the second time the Crystal Springs native had managed the feat. He also did it as a rookie in 2017. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young is one of just four players to hit three bombs in his team’s Opening Day game; that happened in 2005, when Young was with Detroit. The others on this exclusive list: Bill Melton (1969), Larry Herndon (1982) and Brian Dozier (2016). P.S. Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, a fifth-round pick by Detroit, reportedly has signed for a $500,000 bonus. The third baseman/pitcher, originally from Arizona, was an Arizona State signee. … Pitcher Drake Nightengale, a Pearl River Community College alum from Sumrall, has signed as a non-drafted free agent (out of South Alabama) with the New York Mets.
On this date in 1990, Vicksburg native Ellis Burks hit two home runs in one inning for Boston in a game at Cleveland. He is one of 56 players to accomplish that feat in the modern era, and the only Mississippian (native or college alumnus) to do it. Among the others on the list are Joe DiMaggio, Mark McGwire, David Ortiz, Jeff Bagwell, Dale Murphy and Willie McCovey, who is one of five players to go deep twice in one inning TWICE. Burks, a first-round pick by the Red Sox out of a Texas junior college, debuted in the big leagues in 1987 and hit 352 homers in his 18-year career, including 40 in 1996 with Colorado. He finished his career in Boston, playing 11 games in 2004 in his age 40 season and earning a World Series ring when The Curse was vanquished.
Home runs are cool and all, but the “juiced ball” has gotten a little out of hand in the big leagues this year. Yet another case in point: Entering this season, Jarrod Dyson had seven home runs in 1,917 career at-bats. The McComb native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star hit his seventh of 2019 on Tuesday night in his 305th AB. Dyson is 5 feet 10 (maybe), 165 pounds and 34 years old. Tuesday’s homer was Dyson’s third career leadoff bomb, all coming this season. This is to take nothing away from the season Dyson is having, which is outstanding. Playing regularly in center field for Arizona, which remains in the playoff hunt, Dyson is batting .259 with 51 runs (five shy of his career-best) and 24 steals (11 short of his best). (He has set a career-high for ejections, getting the first of his career last week arguing a called strike.) He has batted .308 over his last 15 games. Tuesday’s homer, which he pulled down the right-field line at Coors Field, was his only hit in the 9-3 win against Colorado, but it sparked a five-run first inning. “Dyson started the party,” Diamondbacks teammate Nick Ahmed told The Associated Press.
Trent Giambrone has put on a nice little show of power at Triple-A Iowa, homering for the third straight game on Sunday and for the fourth time in his last seven contests with the Chicago Cubs affiliate. More impressive, however, than what the Delta State product has done is what ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley has managed. He went deep twice for Triple-A Columbus on Sunday after also homering twice on Friday. The highly rated Cleveland prospect leads the International League with 22 home runs. Bradley, a first baseman who is on the Indians’ 40-man roster, is batting .310 over his last 10 games and .287 with 52 RBIs for the year as he awaits his first big league call-up, which reportedly might happen in July. He has 136 homers in his six minor league campaigns. Giambrone, a fourth-year pro who is not on the Cubs’ 40-man, is batting .375 in his last seven games and .220 with 13 homers on the season. He has played seven different positions for the I-Cubs. He opened some eyes in the Cubs’ system when he batted .324 in major league camp this spring. Of course, no discussion of power hitting can be complete without mention of Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State alum who hit two homers for San Diego on Sunday after belting three – 1,316 feet worth — on Friday. He has nine in his last 15 games and 23 for the season, tied for second in the majors. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Pearl River Community College standout Braxton Lee leads the Eastern League with a .304 average in 51 games for Double-A Binghamton in the New York Mets’ chain. The onetime big leaguer is batting .346 over his last 10 games. … Drew Waters of the Mississippi Braves is batting an absurd .463 in his last 10 games and leads the Southern League in hitting at .338 heading into the SL All-Star break. He has a 25-game on-base streak. He also leads the loop in triples, doubles and OPS.
Freddie Freeman already has achieved iconic status with the Atlanta Braves. The former Mississippi Braves first baseman is to the current generation of Braves fans what Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy and Chipper Jones were before him: the face of the franchise. Still, the occasion of Freeman’s 200th career home run – struck Sunday against Mississippi native Brandon Woodruff of Milwaukee – gives us a peg to celebrate what he has achieved in his 10 seasons in the big leagues. It has been a treat to watch. Freeman arrived in Pearl on July 4, 2009, as a highly rated prospect though not as celebrated as his buddy who arrived on the same day, Jason Heyward. Heyward put up better numbers as an M-Brave – Freeman, not fully healthy, hit .248 with two homers in 41 games that summer – and reached Atlanta first, famously homering in his first at-bat in 2010. But Freeman has clearly surpassed Heyward on the big league stage. Freeman is a career .294 hitter with 713 RBIs. He has made three All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove and finished in the top six in National League MVP voting three times. He is just the ninth player ever to hit 200 homers for the Braves. He has the second-most homers by an M-Braves alum; Brian McCann has 273, 179 with Atlanta. Only Lance Berkman (366), Darryl Strawberry (335), Bobby Abreu (288), McCann and Kevin Mitchell (234) rank above Freeman on the list of career bombs by former Jackson area Double-A players. The current Braves team, sprinkled with so many young stars, revolves around Freeman — and will go as far as he leads them.
There has been a power surge of late among several Mississippians, notably Bobby Bradley, Austin Riley and Hunter Renfroe. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, has begun to mash at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s system. The 22-year-old first baseman has four homers in his last four games, three in his last two. A .366 spurt over his last 10 games has boosted his average to .315 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in his first full season at the Triple-A level. “It’s really a great experience, you learn so much from the veteran guys,” Bradley said in an milb.com story. Riley, the DeSoto Central product, hit two more bombs for Triple-A Gwinnett (Atlanta) on Wednesday. That’s 10 in his last 13 games, during which he has batted an absurd .469. He is at .315 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs. “Obviously, I’m seeing the ball well,” he told milb.com. “I’ve worked really hard on getting my swing where it is now.” Renfroe, the ex-Copiah Academy and Mississippi State standout, hit a go-ahead home run for the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. He also hit a tie-breaking bomb on Monday and a walk-off grand slam on Sunday. “He’s clutch. And he has been for a long time,” Padres manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe now has nine homers on the year, second to Mitch Moreland’s 10 among Mississippians in the majors. P.S. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart is 2-for-8 (.125 for year) since coming off the injured list for the Los Angeles Angels, who also designated MSU product Chris Stratton for assignment on Tuesday. Stratton, who’ll likely land in Triple-A, has an 8.59 ERA in seven appearances. … Tony Sipp, the veteran reliever out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, went on the 10-day IL for Washington with a strained oblique.
The great home run race in Mississippi last season involved just one player. Delta State’s Zack Shannon chased and ultimately broke the record for homers in a single season by a state collegian in any division. Shannon’s 31 bombs eclipsed the previous record of 29 shared by ex-Mississippi State stars Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria. No one is threatening Shannon’s record in 2019, but there is quite a battle for the state long ball lead. State’s Justin Foscue and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim have hit 11, and Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner have 10. At nine are UM’s Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski, with State’s Dustin Skelton and Delta State’s Jake Barlow sitting on eight. Foscue hit his 11th against Arkansas on Friday; it was his only hit in the series in which the Bulldogs were swept. Crim, having a monster year, homered in both of MC’s wins at West Alabama; he drove in seven runs in the Friday game. Wallner, starting to heat up for USM, hit three homers over the weekend as the Golden Eagles swept Charlotte; with 45 career bombs, Wallner is tied with Fred Cooley for fourth on USM’s all-time list. UM’s Keenan hit his 10th in the Rebels’ lone win in a three-game set at Auburn. Zabowski also went yard in that game. Barlow leads a Delta State team that has 30 homers, one fewer than Shannon hit in 2018. P.S. Ex-State standout Mitch Moreland leads Mississippians in the majors in home runs with seven. Interestingly enough, McComb native Jarrod Dyson, whose outstanding tool is speed, has the same number – three – as Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss product and a more noted slugger.
For Mitch Moreland, it was a milestone home run. For his Boston team, it was a lot more than that. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, blasted his 150th career homer on Sunday, a seventh-inning shot that lifted the Red Sox to a 1-0 win at Arizona in the finale of a brutal road trip. The defending world champs went 3-8 against Seattle, Oakland and the Diamondbacks. Their home opener is Tuesday vs. Toronto. “It’s going to be nice to get back home and get in front of our fans and get rolling,” Moreland told mlb.com. Unlike so many of his teammates, Moreland is off to a good start. He is batting .258 with club-leading numbers of three homers, nine RBIs and a .645 slugging percentage. Now in his 10th MLB campaign and third with Boston, Moreland made his first All-Star Game last year in addition to winning his first ring. He has 40 homers for Boston – plus one in last year’s World Series – plays a Gold Glove-caliber first base and has become a key part of an elite team. Moreland hit his first big league homer for Texas on Aug. 13, 2010, against Boston’s Josh Beckett. His 150 total puts him ninth on the career list of Mississippi natives; Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for seventh at 160.
The drought has ended for Corey Dickerson, who homered for the first time since May 4 in Pittsburgh’s 7-5 win against San Diego on Sunday. The RBI was the first since June 1 for the ex-Meridian Community College star. Dickerson, reportedly working on a new approach at the plate, has hit just .196 over his last 15 games, dropping his average to .296. The homer, his sixth of the year, might have been a good sign. “I was just glad he didn’t forget his trot,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said in an mlb.com story. “He pulled off his trot like he’d hit a bunch of them. Guys have always got that trot in the back pocket, waiting to bust it out.” Dickerson does have 96 career homers. … Hunter Renfroe, who has been swinging the bat well of late (.300 in his last 15 games), went deep for San Diego, his fifth of the year, and two other Mississippians also homered on Sunday: Brian Dozier and JaCoby Jones. Southern Miss alum Dozier hit No. 12 for Minnesota, and Richton High product Jones got No. 6 for Detroit. Tim Anderson, the former East Central CC star, still leads the Magnolia State pack with 13. … Four former Mississippi Braves got into the long-ball act on Sunday. Mallex Smith hit his first for Tampa Bay, Jose Peraza his fifth (a grand slam) for Cincinnati, Freddie Freeman his 16th for Atlanta and Evan Gattis his 16th and 17th for Houston. After a slow start in 2018, Gattis has 11 bombs in his past 30 games.