Mississippi State OF signee Andy Rice Update

With the need for power, the Mississippi State baseball staff hit the recruiting trail hard trying to find a power hitter. They may have found that guy in Itawamba Community College rightfielder Andy Rice. So far this year, Andy has knocked 14 out of the park, while hitting at a .455 to .460 clip.

After seeing him this past fall - thanks to the help of a former teammate of his who is now a Bulldog - the Bulldog offered Andy a scholarship.

"(True freshman) Mitch Moreland helped me out a lot," said the 6-2, 200-pound Rice. "He told them that Andy Rice is back from surgery. They gave me a couple of looks. They were pretty much the first team that looked at me. And I wanted to to go State. They gave me a great offer, so I went ahead and signed early with them. I'll be a Bulldog next year."

That is, hopefully he will be a Bulldog. Like three or four of MSU's signees, the MLB Draft could play a factor as to whether he will be putting on the Maroon and White next season or playing in Rookie League ball somewhere.

"I've gotten something like 15 to 20 letters from all the different ballclubs," said Rice, who visited with the Mariners the day that I called him. "They are on me pretty heavy. There are at least 3 or 4 scouts at every game, the Mariners, Marlins and the Rockies. The Mariners are real high on me. The Yankees have been to a couple of my games."

Like the Bulldog coaching staff, the pros like Rice for his power as well as a couple of other things about his game.

"They like my overall power and my power to all fields," said Rice. "That's a gift that some people don't have and they say that I have it. They also like that I have a good, strong arm from the outfield. And I play the game the way it should be played, 100%."

With so many pro teams showing interest in him, Rice has thought about pro ball and what it would take to go pro.

"A lot of this has come upon me the past month," said Rice. "It sort of ran on me pretty quick. I sit down every night and think about it. I've talked to some people who have been in the business before and I have my mind set on some figures."

Does he have an idea what round he may go in?

"I'm not really sure," said Rice. "Some teams have said I could go in the top 3 to 5 (rounds) and other teams don't want to say that much right now. But I guess in the top 10 (rounds)."

While he has some definite ideas about pro ball, he also said going to college is still very much an option.

"I would love to go to State because that is the greatest school to go to," said Rice. "I have a lot of friends down there. And playing under Ron Polk would be great. But if the cards are dealt right, it would be a great opportunity (to go pro)."

Top 10 rounds, possible 3rd to 5th round or playing for Ron Polk and Mississippi State. Not bad for a guy who just two years ago was not even being considered by pro scouts or Mississippi State after developing pain in his shoulder.

"I pitched a lot in Amory when I was younger," said Rice, who consistently threw 86 to 88 miles per hour as a sophomore and topped out at 91 as a senior. "Actually I was pretty much a pitcher. Then, my arm started bothering me my junior year. I had surgery (June, 2003) on a spur that was built up in my shoulder blade. They went in and shaved it down and repaired a little tear that was in my labrum. It takes a good year to come back from a surgery like that. I came back and my arm was better than I expected. But (D-I colleges and the pro scouts) knew that I had arm problem so I went to a good juco school like ICC. (ICC head) Coach Rick Collier worked with me and let me go at my own pace in rehab."

Due to the arm rehab, he and Coach Collier thought it was best to redshirt him his true freshman season at ICC.

"I could have come back my freshman year at ICC, but Coach (Collier) wanted me pitching and hitting," said Rice. "And I would have been lacking on the pitching and been out half the season. That's why he went ahead and redshirted me."

The year of rest and rehab must have benefited him because the State staff not only liked him as a hitter, but as a pitcher.

"State signed me as a pitcher as well as a hitter," said Rice, who is just now getting his stamina on the mound back. "From the outfield, there is no problem with my arm. But when I get on the mound, I don't have my strength back. The more I pitch, the stronger I will get."

Now, Bulldog fans and pro scouts wait to see if he will be hitting and pitching at MSU or in a Rookie League somewhere.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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