You redshirted last season, then went to summer ball and got hit in the face and suffered a conucussion. That pretty much ended your summer season before it even really got started.
"Yes sir. The second game I was facing a kid from Vandy who I believe was throwing in the low 90s. I got a hit my first at-bat, then the second at-bat on the first pitch I took the ball straight to the side of my head. I was out of the (lineup) for three and a half weeks (with a concussion). That was half my summer right there. I came back and worked my way back in but it didn't go as well as I thought it would. But when you take a 92 (miles per hour fastball) to the head you get a little shaken up. But during that period I made some adjustments to my swing that I needed to make.
"Then, I fouled a ball off my ankle and got hurt again. I didn't think anything about it at the time. I actually hit a home run, my only home run of the season. But about two or three games later I slide into second base and I could barely walk. Then, it continued to get worse. I went to a doctor and he said it was a heel bone crack. I'm back up here and healthy now. And that is all that matters."
You didn't get too many at-bats during the summer, 28 total, due to the two injuries. Did you still have the chance to accomplish much during the summer?
"I got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. They were my host family while I was up there. That was good because I haven't been able to spend much time with them since I was much younger. (As for baseball) I made a few adjustments to my swing which I think will be very beneficial this coming season. I also got my hands right and worked on getting my (strikeout) percentage down. It took about two to three weeks to get used to that change. I came back up here with the change solidified. The other day Coach Cohen said that this was the best that he had ever seen me hit since I have been here."
What did he like about it?
"(My swing) is smoother, cleaner and not as complicated. Nothing has really change with my swing. It's just a lot more fluid."
What results are you seeing when you hit the ball now with the cleaner swing?
"I'm seeing a lot more backspin on the ball. The ball is traveling about 20 feet farther because I have changed my hands a little bit."
Having more backspin means you are seeing more power when you hit the ball, right?
"Yeah, I used to top spin to the pull side a little bit just because I get around the ball too much. I would drop my hands too low, then I would have to come back up and swing way too far up on the plane. Now my plane is more even with the ball. That will create more backspin, which will make the ball go farther."
Was that change something that the Mississippi State coaches taught you?
"It was one of those things that I knew that I would need to change once I got to this level. I got away with it in high school. But we talked about it a lot last year. It was more of a thing where I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my hands. There are a lot of ways to do it. You just have to find the way that fits you. Coach Mingione has been on me about backspinning the ball, especially all of last year. Then, I finally figured it out this summer."
You didn't get many at-bats. So, how did you work on those adjustments?
"We had a really good indoor facility that sponsored our team. It was about 10 minutes away from where I was staying. I got a lot of work in there when I wasn't playing."
Going back to last season here at Mississippi State, did you know that you would probably be redshirted last season?
"It really came down to the spring scrimmages. There was a fine line. But we decided that it would be the best decision for me because it saved me a year of eligibility and we had seven outfielders last season. Looking back on it, I'm glad I did it. And Coach Cohen even said in our meeting that I wouldn't regret it. He said it would work out well, and it has so far."
Why do you think redshirting was a great thing for you?
"I learned a lot of things from the older guys. They were things that I learned by watching them. I got to watch a lot more for the first time in my life. I got to experience different things and I think that is important. And I developed a great friendship with C.T. Bradford. He was probably one of the biggest mentors that I had. Our swings kind of mirrored each other even though one is from the right and the other is from the left. We talked about a lot of stuff and I learned a lot from him."
You redshirted last season and didn't get to play much during the summer. How hungry are you this year when it comes to playing baseball?
"Me and Coach Mingione have talked about that a lot lately, about how hungry I should be and how excited I should be and staying positive."
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 email@example.com.