Swinging the bat is something Joey Collums misses because he knows a thing or two about connecting. While playing baseball at Evangelical Christian in Memphis, Joey had a career high batting average of .477 his senior season and lead the Eagles in RBI with 32 his junior year. He even played ball for a Memphis summer team last year because in his words, "they let me swing the bat."
Joey grew up playing ball with his older brother, getting in fights, getting dirty, and then playing some more. Some of his favorite high school memories revolved around his sophomore season when he played first base, his brother played second, and their best friend played shortstop. That team won the state title.
One of two recent Germantown natives who have played for the Diamond Dogs, Joey enjoyed telling me about the fun he had growing up and playing Little League baseball with Darrin Hope (coached by Darrin's dad) and later against him in high school. When Darrin, now an assistant coach, joined the team last year for his senior season, it was special to share the MSU baseball experience with a long time friend.
Joey almost didn't end up at Mississippi State. His family had been Arkansas fans for a long time and he had a great official visit there. However, former Mississippi State pitching coach Jim Case recruited Joey faithfully. Once he experienced Dudy Noble Field and Left Field Lounge in full swing, he knew where he belonged.
His family is very important to him and their support has meant a lot. As an example of the importance of his family, quite often you can find his nieces and nephew playing after a game wearing homemade Bulldog T-shirts which show their uncle's number 40 on them.
Joey has really enjoyed the role of starting pitcher, knowing the game is yours with no pressure of inheriting other people's situations. Joey admits in the past it was rough to get past a bad loss and put it behind him. But it is apparent that three years of maturing in the SEC have taught him how to deal with this challenge by leaving it all on the field. This is just one area of Joey's life that has benefited from his strong faith in God.
Joey said recently he thought a lot about the fact that, "God doesn't just put you in situations just to have you there, he puts you there, he gives you gifts and talents for a reason. What I want to do is to do what I can to exemplify Christ in my actions and words." Joey welcomes the opportunity to help others who need a listening ear and is grateful for the encouragement of his teammates who have been able to keep baseball in perspective.
Joey has enjoyed the travels of baseball. If you ever want to hear Joey tell stories about traveling, be sure to ask him about Everett Kennard, bus driver and coordinator extraordinaire. He laughs when talking about watching the new freshmen's eyes as Everett hits the road at full throttle; something I can relate to as I attempted to follow him in Nashville last year.
By all outward appearances, Joey Collums seems to be a quiet, confident young man, humble to those who know him well. What many people may not know is within that quiet, even-tempered demeanor lies a daredevil at heart. When probed about his off-the-field interests, one might have expected the two-time winner of the Newsome Award and English major to say something like drama or reading, but you couldn't have been more wrong. The favorite pastimes of this slim, 6'3" southpaw include ventures into snow boarding and sky diving. Joey was quick to quip in good humor that he guessed he was just a closet nut. Sounds like fun to me!
Joey looks forward to his opportunities to go to the mound and give it all he's got. And Bulldog faithful have come to expect solid pitching from Joey with games such as his 6-inning stint for a win against South Carolina in the 2001 SEC Tournament en route to the title game. And his incredible 15-strikeout performance against Jacksonville State March 3rd when he pitched 7 innings while giving up one run on 3 hits.
No one knows what the future holds, but Joey was clear about one thing: He wants to let God take him where He wants him to be. With a love of children, he might easily become a teacher or coach, but he would rather be led than choose now for himself. I know wherever Joey goes, he will be a goodwill ambassador for Mississippi State, and a witness to those he meets.
Valerie Maples is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. You can contact her by email at email@example.com.