Baseball on the Southside

At the time of writing this latest installment of the Pinstripes to Camo blog, it is the eve of the turkey season opener. By the time this is published many of you will already have bagged your first bird of the 2021 season. So I will open by saying congratulations (in my most jealous voice possible.) I’m hopeful that the opportunity to get in the woods and hear that majestic gobble comes soon, and I hope when it does that I’m ready to take advantage of the moment. In the meantime, let me bore you with talk of baseball instead.

You may not have noticed, and judging by the size of the crowds at Milton Wheeler Field, you haven’t, but our baseball team is currently 15-2 overall. Yes, that was a shameless plug for our team. Along with good fishing and plenty to do in the outdoors, South Mississippi has great baseball. That I am well aware of. There are plenty of opportunities to see great baseball, all within a half hour drive from virtually anywhere in the Pine Belt. William Carey is no exception, regardless of your thoughts on it being a small university or not. Don’t believe me, ask die hard USM faithful what happened the last few times WCU played the Golden Eagles in the regular season. William Carey is a baseball school and I won’t apologize for saying it.

I’m not saying that we can go across town and beat those guys. They have a fantastic team and, in my opinion, one of the best college baseball coaches in the nation. What I am saying, is that it’s beyond time for folks around town to take notice of what’s going on down Highway 49 south. Regardless of whether or not we win another game this year (I hope we do or I’ll have to become a writer full time) we have a great group of young men. We’ve got four players that will end up being doctors! How many college baseball programs can say that?

Playing and coaching at WCU has obviously made me very biased, but for good reason. WCU is home to me. I was the first person in my family to go to college, so please forgive my pride a little bit. WCU is where I met my wife. She later transferred to USM to pursue a degree that WCU didn’t offer, but guess where her allegiance lies….WCU. WCU gave me my first ever coaching job, as well as my first ever head coaching job. There are a lot of people around town that don’t know that I was the first ever Men’s and Women’s Cross Country coach at William Carey. Shoot, we even won a conference championship in our fourth year of having the sport and had multiple All-Americans during that time. For me to say that I love William Carey is a major understatement. It’s given me everything that I have.

That brings me back to baseball. I love this team. They are tough, they play hard, they are fun to be around, and they like to win. I also believe that the covid situation has brought them closer together. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict what will happen the rest of the season. However, for now, I’m incredibly proud of them. Last weekend, we were down 7 runs in the fifth inning. If you’ve ever been to our field before you’d know that making up a 7 run differential is near impossible. Milton Wheeler Field, named for longtime history professor at WCU, is an absolute graveyard. The ball just does not fly there like it does across town. Didn’t matter to our guys, who scored 17 runs in the next three innings to enact the 10 run rule. Just this weekend, looking to complete a four game series sweep, we found ourselves down by three runs going into our last at bat. We scored four runs to walk off the series. We do not quit!

Not quitting…seems like something this country could really use a dose of right about now. I have to admit that I think covid has made our baseball team better. It’s made them focus on things that matter. It’s forced them to make better life decisions. It’s made them realize that tomorrow is not promised. This has been my hope from the moment that our season got shut down almost exactly one year ago. I can remember saying, “How can we make something positive out of this situation?” So far, these guys have figured that out. In the coming weeks, our schedule will get tougher. I hope that our guys will get tougher with it. I also hope that they will get the credit that they are due, not just for baseball, but for the things they are accomplishing in the classroom as well.

Next week I promise that I’ll get back to the outdoors, well maybe. In the meantime, check your schedules and swing by Milton Wheeler Field one weekend. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Chris Williams and I after a basehit in a recent game

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