20 Apr

over there

Anthony Alford is crushing it in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 49 at-bats over 12 games for KT Wiz, the ex-Petal High standout is batting .449 with six doubles, two homers, eight RBIs and 10 runs. Alford, 28, headed to the KBO last year after being released by Pittsburgh, and he hit .286 with 14 homers for KT Wiz. The former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player began pursuing baseball full-time in 2014. Alford, who has dealt with a lot of injuries over the years, got into 102 MLB games as an outfielder with Toronto and Pittsburgh but hit just .209 with eight homers. KBO pitchers can’t quite seem to figure him out. Also in the KBO, with the SSG Landers club, is former USM star Kirk McCarty, who has posted a 1-1 record with a 4.41 ERA in three starts. McCarty reached the big leagues in 2022 with Cleveland and put up a 4.45 ERA in 13 games with the Guardians and Baltimore. Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack, who helped Orix win the championship in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, has been a bit wobbly through five appearances for Orix this season: 1-2, 8.31 ERA. P.S. Konnor Pilkington, the ex-Mississippi State ace, was called up from Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday and sent down to Columbus on Wednesday without making an appearance. The lefty made his big league debut for the Guardians in 2022 (3.88 ERA in 15 games).

29 Nov

no drumroll needed

He led the Atlanta Braves in home runs, slugging, OPS and WAR. He broke a team record for extra base hits held by Hank Aaron. He made his first All-Star Game and finished sixth in National League MVP voting. He also was rewarded with a 10-year, $212 million contract. Austin Riley’s 2022 season was an amazing one, making the DeSoto Central High product an easy choice for the annual Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance in MLB by a Mississippian (native or school alum). In his eighth pro season — he spent parts of 2017 and ’18 with the Mississippi Braves — third baseman Riley batted .273 with 38 homers, 93 RBIs and 90 runs for the NL East champion Braves. He also has become a leader in the clubhouse. “The person he is, the player, the individual, it’s just everything that embodies the Atlanta Braves,” manager Brian Snitker told sbnation.com last summer. It’s the second straight year Riley has won the Bell, which honors the Negro Leagues legend who was the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Other winners include Tim Anderson (twice), Corey Dickerson (twice), Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan. P.S. Former M-Braves star Ronald Acuna won the Venezuelan Winter League’s Home Run Derby on Monday night with a dramatic clincher that set off a wild celebration in the stadium at Caracas. … Ex-Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty reportedly will sign with SSG Landers of the Korean Baseball Organization. McCarty, recently released by Cleveland, made his MLB debut in 2022 and posted a 4.54 ERA in 13 games for the Guardians.

15 Sep

off beaten path

Former Petal High star Anthony Alford has fit in nicely with the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization. Alford, a onetime big leaguer who played two games for Pittsburgh this season, is batting .268 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs for KT. … Ole Miss product and ex-major leaguer Jacob Waguespack is 2-6 with four saves, five holds and a 3.19 ERA in 27 appearances for Orix in Japan’s Pacific League. … Ex-UM standout and Picayune native Braxton Lee leads the independent Atlantic League in triples with nine and is batting .306 with 73 RBIs, 60 runs and 19 steals for playoff-bound Southern Maryland. The Blue Crabs are managed by Jackson native Stan Cliburn. … Jacob Robson, the Mississippi State alum who had a cup of coffee in the majors in 2021, is playing for the independent Kansas City Monarchs, who are in the semifinals of the American Association playoffs. Robson, a former Detroit farmhand, hit .278 with nine homers, 34 RBIs and nine steals for the Monarchs. His teammates include Mississippi Braves alum Mallex Smith and Casey Gillaspie, son of ex-MSU star Mark Gillaspie. … Former Hattiesburg High star and ex-big league pitcher Robert Carson is the pitching coach for the independent Quebec Capitales, who are in the Frontier League title series. … Colt Keith, the ex-Biloxi High standout, has been given an Arizona Fall League assignment by Detroit. Keith, a highly regarded third base prospect, hit .301 with nine homers at High-Class A West Michigan but didn’t play after June 10 because of a shoulder injury. The AFL season begins Oct. 3. More roster assignments will be announced in the coming days. P.S. Props to Ole Miss product Will Ethridge, who threw five shutout innings on Wednesday night to notch his first Double-A win for Hartford in the Colorado system. Ethridge, a 2019 draftee, is 1-1, 3.42 ERA, in seven games for the Yard Goats. He was 5-6, 5.65, in A-ball.

15 Jun

kind of a thing

Home runs were kind of a thing on Tuesday. Atlanta hit five of ’em in its 13th straight win, a 10-4 triumph at Washington, with former Mississippi Braves Dansby Swanson and Michael Harris II and Biloxi Shuckers alum Orlando Arcia getting in on the long-ball act. Swanson’s was his ninth of 2022, Harris’ his second and second in as many nights and Arcia’s his second and first since a walk-off bomb on May 11. Arcia was making his first start as Ozzie Albies’ replacement at second base. … Nathaniel (or is it Nate?) Lowe, who has been on a hot streak for Texas, hit his eighth of the season; the former Mississippi State star is batting .317 with five homers in his last 15 games. … Down in Double-A, Southern Miss product Matt Wallner belted his 12th for Wichita and is now hitting .271 with 42 RBIs for the Minnesota affiliate. … Ex-MSU standout Tanner Allen, the 2021 Ferriss Trophy winner, hit his third homer for High-Class A Beloit in Miami’s system. … DeSoto Central High alum Blaze Jordan smacked his fourth for Low-A Salem in Boston’s chain; he is batting .272 with 31 RBIs in his second pro summer. … Brandon Parker, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Saucier, hit No. 3 for Low-A Augusta in the Atlanta system; he is batting .257. … Also of note, as part of a five-hit game for Birmingham at Trustmark Park, former M-Braves standout Tyler Neslony hit his 10th homer — onto the roof of the Farm Bureau Grill past right field — in the Barons’ 9-4 win against the faltering M-Braves. P.S. Richton High product JaCoby Jones has been released from Triple-A by Kansas City. The erstwhile big leaguer, 30, who was with Detroit for six seasons, was batting .214 with four homers at Omaha. His future would appear to be uncertain. … Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, also a former big leaguer, went 1-for-3 in his debut Tuesday with the KT Wiz in the Korean Baseball Organization.

26 May

hits keep coming

Promoted to Triple-A on Tuesday, Jake Mangum got a hit — and a stolen base — in his first game at the new level and is 4-for-7 in two games for Syracuse in the New York Mets’ system. The former Jackson Prep and Mississippi State star hit .283 this season at Double-A Binghamton before earning the promotion. Rated the No. 22 prospect in the Mets’ organization, Mangum, 26, is a .277 career hitter with 10 homers and 39 steals in 646 at-bats over three seasons in the minors. He left State as the all-time hits leader in the SEC. “I’m a gap-to-gap hitter that still plays the game hard and plays the game fast,” he told milb.com in a story currently featured on its website. The switch-hitting center fielder said his plan for the rest of 2022 is “play every game like it’s my last.” P.S. MSU product Konnor Pilkington has been recalled by Cleveland and will start today’s game against Detroit. The left-hander has a 2.08 ERA in four big league games this season. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford reportedly has signed with the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization. The onetime big leaguer, cut loose by Pittsburgh earlier this season, had been playing in Triple-A in the Cleveland chain.

08 Dec

lunch pail dude

Lance Lynn’s 104-71 career record is impressive, as is his 3.57 ERA. The ex-Ole Miss star has averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings over a nine-year big league career. But perhaps the most impressive thing about the newest member of the Chicago White Sox’s rotation is his tenacity. He shows up for work and gives all he’s got. He made 13 starts for a last-place Texas team in the 60-game 2020 season, went 6-3 and averaged 6.5 innings per. On one memorable occasion, Aug. 14 at Colorado, the 33-year-old right-hander came into the Rangers’ dugout after the eighth inning, sitting at 98 pitches with a 3-2 lead, and proclaimed, “I’m finishing it.” He did, a complete-game two-hitter. From 2012-19, he made at least 29 starts each season, excepting 2016 which he missed after Tommy John surgery. Traded by the Rangers late Monday for two prospects, Lynn joins former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson and Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet on a White Sox team that could be scary good in 2021. P.S. Onetime Mississippi Braves outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. earned Korean Baseball Organization MVP honors for 2020. He hit .349 and led the league with 47 homers and 135 RBIs in 142 games for the KT Wiz. He fell five batting average points short of winning the Triple Crown. This was his fourth season in the KBO. He is reportedly looking for an MLB offer.

06 May

stalking baseball

Several Mississippians, all pitchers, have found success in the Korean Baseball Organization, which is getting a lot of attention these days (thanks to ESPN) as the only professional league going. Gary Rath, the Gulfport native and ex-Mississippi State All-American, won 43 games over parts of four years in the KBO between 2001 and ’08, including a 17-8, 2.60 ERA season with Doosan in 2004. Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway, now the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach, went 32-22 in three seasons in the KBO, including a 16-win campaign in 2005. Rath and Callaway, both of whom had some big league time, went to Korea at the end of their careers. Former Southern Miss standout Scott Copeland used a recent stint in the KBO as a route back to the big leagues. After making the majors with Toronto in 2015 (his sixth pro season), Copeland was released early in 2016 and went to Korea, where he made 13 starts for the LG Twins and then re-signed with the Blue Jays later that summer. He ultimately returned to the big leagues with the New York Mets – for one game — in 2018. Copeland spent last season in Washington’s system and is currently a minor league free agent. Meridian native Jamie Brown (2006-08), Jackson State alum Mike Farmer (2000-01), Columbus’ Luther Hackman (2005), UM alum Phil Irwin (2015) and ex-Purvis High star Kenny Rayborn (2007-08) also pitched in the KBO. Brown, Farmer, Hackman and Irwin had MLB appearances on their resumes.

04 May

kbo connections

ESPN will televise LIVE baseball from the Korean Baseball Organization beginning Tuesday morning (midnight CDT). As Jack Buck might’ve said, “Go crazy, folks.” If you’re wondering about a Mississippi connection in the KBO, there are at least a couple. Former Mississippi Braves Jake Brigham (2015) and Mel Rojas Jr. (2016) are established three-year veterans there, Brigham with the Kiwoom Heroes and Rojas with the KT Wiz. Brigham, a right-handed starter, went 6-3 with a 3.05 ERA for the M-Braves in 2015 and made the Southern League All-Star Game. He reached Atlanta later that summer and got into 12 games, his only MLB appearances. Brigham is 34-18, 3.72 in the KBO. Rojas, son of the ex-big league pitcher, batted .244 with two homers in 35 games for the ’16 M-Braves. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound switch-hitting outfielder has been a force in South Korea, belting 85 homers and hitting .310 over his three seasons. Quite a few former major leaguers are on KBO rosters.