Rooker is a very intelligent young man who does extremely well in the classroom. When you listen to him talk about his hitting philosophy, you can tell he easily transfers that intelligence from the classroom to the baseball diamond.
"Offensively, they are going to see someone who is very aggressive at the plate, who likes hitting ahead in the count like most hitters do. (But) I like to have a gameplan when I go to the plate and try to attack the pitcher early in the count because I don't want him to be able to settle in and think he will get me," said Rooker. "I want to get him a little him off-balance in his game. I also try to use all fields. But the main thing is to have a gameplan and try to be aggressive."
While he has an initial gameplan for his first at-bat, he also makes adjustments to his plan as the game goes forward.
"On this (East Coast Grays) team, our two-hole hitter is a lot like me so I like to see what the pitcher throws him," he said. "If the pitcher comes in with a first-pitch curveball, then he's probably going to do the same thing with me. But a lot of times the first two hitters are slap hitters, so the pitcher will pitch me a lot differently than they do them. Due to that, I like to watch the four and five hitters bat and watch what he throws them. Basically, I attack the pitcher early my first at-bat, then watch what he throws the four and five hitters after I batted."
Rooker, like current Mississippi State hitter Adam Frazier, prefers hitting a fastball instead of a curveball or changeup. In high school ball, unlike travel team ball, fastball are more far and between.
"In high school ball a lot of pitchers around here know who I am so they normally don't throw me a lot of fastball," said Rooker. "So, if I get a fastball early in the count, then I'm going to have to swing at it because I would much rather hit a fastball than a curveball that might be outside or a changeup low and away. I'm a lot like (Adam Frazier) in that manner"
And like Frazier, it doesn't matter whether the fastball is 85 miles per hour or 90+ miles per hour. He's got the necessary bat speed to hit either velocity.
"We saw (Mississippi State signee) John Marc Shelly twice and he throws it up there pretty good (low 90s). I had a couple of hits our last game against him," said Rooker. "I also faced a 2014 pitcher, John Wesley Ray from CBHS, who threw in the 88-89 range and I hit him pretty well. And we see guys (in travel team tournaments) who hit 88-91 all the time."
While Rooker has another year of high school ball ahead of him, he has made it a point of keeping up with his future Mississippi State teammates. And he has come away really impressed with what he saw from them this season, primarily due to how well they handled all the injuries they had this season.
"I started following them when I first heard from them in March when I talked to (former MSU assistant) Coach (Lane) Burroughs," he said. "I loved the fact that they could battle through all the injuries they had and come back and be strong and win the SEC Tournament. That was a huge indication what kind of character they have and what kind of character the coaching staff has."
What he saw from them this season has been a plus but he already knew he wanted to be a Bulldog the first time he saw a game at Mississippi State.
"The first game I went down there I fell in love with the atmosphere," he said. "It was a early (season) game against Penn State and not that big of a game but there were fans in left field and it was packed out. The cowbells were ringing. I just fell in love with the atmosphere. Obviously, the coaching staff was great. Coach Burroughs is gone now but he did a great job. I've talked to (assistant) Coach (Nick) Mingione and (assistant) Coach (Butch) Thompson a few times. I love both of them and how they go about doing things."
The Mississippi State coaching staff loved Rooker as much as he loved them. Although a good hitter and a very versatile fielder, one tool of his that stands out is his power at the plate. He'll get to showcase that power during the last weekend in December of this year in Miami, Florida at the Power Showcase Home Run Derby.
"Early this year I was watching some (Power Showcase Home Run Derby) YouTube video - and that is where Bryce Harper got famous - and I went to my high school coach and told him I wanted to do like him and get in it," said Rooker. "Then, a few days ago, (my head) Coach (Ryan) Porter called me and told me that he had just gotten off the phone with the Power Showcase guy and he wanted to know if I was in, if I wanted to do the Power Showcase game and Home Run Derby. I told him I would absolutely like to do it. I don't know how it came about but it is a big honor and I'm happy I will be able to do it."
He feels like he will be very competitive in the home run derby.
"I know I need to gain some weight but when I do (batting practice) I used wood (bats) most of the time and I can hit some out and hit it pretty far," he said. "I think I will be able to compete with the other guys."
Rooker and his East Coast Grays teammates played in Memphis, Tennessee the past two weeks in the Keith Hagan Memorial All-American Tournament (wood bat) in front of numerous college coaches.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.