Bulldog Baseball Signees Enjoy Fast Starts

[Premium Article] Like any other season, the Mississippi State baseball staff has to be prepared for the ups and downs of recruiting, mainly produced by the success of the program over the past 35 years or so. The Diamond Dogs usually have to fend of the Major League Baseball draft more than rival schools when signing prep prospects. However, MSU's lone high school signee to get drafted a year ago was current MSU rightfielder/pitcher Brad Corley and the rookie opted for college.

And this past signing class of 2003 may spurn the same results. Of the players signed during the fall season, shortstop Bunky Kateon of Mobile, Ala., is considered by the coaches to possibly get drafted. Kateon, 6-0 and 185 pounds, is one of three Alabama products to ink with the Ron Polk's squad. Jasper's Trent Hill, also plays on the left side of the infield along with seeing time on the mound for Walker County High School.

However, Kateon plays for the St. Paul's Episcopal School Saints, a team currently ranked 14th nationally and among the top in the state of Alabama. So while Kateon may see several scouts during any given game, it seems as though the two-time, all-state selection is focused on becoming the Bulldog's shortstop of the future.

"Right now, our team has been ranked as high as 14th in the nation so we have a lot of good players," said Kateon. "We have one player that signed with Vanderbilt, one with South Alabama and have a pitcher that is drawing a lot of attention from the scouts. I think the last time he threw, there were 14 scouts at the game.

"But not many of them have been talking to me, at least nothing definite. I know that I will play for Mississippi State regardless of the situation (with the draft)."

Kateon, currently hitting .632 with four home runs, also received major interest from in-state schools Alabama and Auburn, along with Mississippi and Clemson. But Kateon needed only one look at a Mississippi State gameday atmosphere to get hooked on the Diamond Dogs.

"I really enjoyed being around their coaching staff," said Kateon. "They all seemed laid back and I liked their approach to the game of baseball.

"I was just up there for the Sunday game with Vanderbilt. I was impressed with the stadium, the fan support and I really liked the players. They went out of their way to be nice to me and you don't see that much. I can't wait to go play for fans that love baseball as much as I do, which will make it so much fun."

And it was that electric type of atmosphere that convinced the 6-foot-2 and 195-pound Hill of Jasper. Hill's prep team has also bolted to a quick start (10-3) while the third baseman/pitcher has already hit five homeruns with a .345 batting average. Hill was also recruited heavily by Alabama, Georgia and South Alabama.

"I came down for one game last year and I also saw them beat UAB a couple of weeks ago in Birmingham," said Hill. "Last year, the stadium was going crazy and there were a lot of people everywhere. Baseball is at the top of the athletics program and they get good treatment and support from fans and the university. That helped my decision out a lot."

However, Hill may also see some time on the pitching staff when he reaches the next diamond level. In his two starts this season, Hill is 1-0 with a no-decision in a game where he threw a one-hitter for seven innings, despite not getting the win.

"They said I could prove to them which one I do the best, playing third or pitching," said Hill. "I really like to play every day in the field. But I feel like I am a more dominant pitcher and that is probably what is my best feature.

"As far as my pitching goes, I have to learn to spot up with my off-speed stuff. And with my hitting, I just have to continue to be patient at the plate and let the pitches come to me."

With another nationally-ranked recruiting class entering Starkville next fall, the early playing time that the current MSU rookies also has this duo from Alabama thinking about contributing as freshman in 2004.

"I want to come in and try to play early, helping the team out if I can," said Hill. "I know they start three or four freshmen this year. And Coach Polk is looking like he is getting the program back to the level it was his first time around at State."

And Hill's remarks were also echoed by his future Diamond Dog teammate from the Alabama gulf coast.

"They start true freshmen in the outfield already and have two other freshmen that have played out there," noted Kateon. "And all those young guys are good and playing well. The program should be good for quite awhile and the future really looks good for Mississippi State baseball."

Paul Jones is a recruiting correspondent for Gene's Page. Paul, also a sports writer for the Starkville Daily News, can be reached by email at pdjmsu@hotmail.com

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