It was a different sort of summer for Mississippi State’s first baseman. After taking it easy after the 2012 and ’13 seasons, to recover from wear-and-tear, Rea got back in the summer ball circuit one last time. He played at Bethesda in the Cal Ripken League, not only facing quality pitching in 23 games but measuring himself against college peers. The .253 average might not’ve opened eyes but half of his 20 hits went for extra bases; five doubles and five home runs.
This was exactly what Rea needed to put his junior-season struggles securely into the past, and get going towards a senior year. And if the original schedule would have him playing pro ball by now, Rea has proven plenty adaptable to circumstances. Though, he agrees, that college clock does tick lots louder nowadays.
“I’ve been here a long time and seen a bunch of guys come and go,” he said, noting only pitcher Ross Mitchell remains from Rea’s rookie class of 2011. “I’ve had four years of experience and seeing how quick it goes, this year I guess it hit home. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, I guess this is the last go-round and it hits everybody.”
Coach John Cohen and club might empathize with the need for a senior season, but are they ever to have perhaps the finest defensive first-sacker in the nation back one more year. On top of this though is Rea’s responsibility to lead these Diamond Dogs back on the right track. The one the ’13 team found to Omaha, that is, yet at the same time to match or even improve the better SEC record of ’14.
Pressure? Maybe to observers. To Rea? “I love that role,” he said. “Fail or prevail, either way I love it. That’s what I look forward to, I want to be under that pressure.”
Mississippi State’s first scrimmage of fall season is Tuesday at 4:30. They have a 3:30 scrimmage scheduled on Dudy Noble Field, then take their fall-act on the road to Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium for a free public Saturday scrimmage at 4:00. The intrasquad game follows a team trip to Blair Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.