"I mostly play short. When I play fall ball for the Stars, I usually play second."
Who do you play for during the fall?
"Harry Porter's team."
Yeah, I know Harry. He is a major league baseball scout and teaches at a college.
"Yeah, he is a good guy."
How long have you played for him?
"This will be my third year. He took me as a sophomore."
Took you as a sophomore. That is pretty unusual isn't it?
"Yeah it is. He let me play when I was a young guy."
Obviously, he must have liked you. What did he tell you that he liked about you?
"He liked my hands and the way I played. I hustled. He just liked the way I carried myself."
Yeah, I have talked to a few major league baseball scouts and a few high school coaches. They say the same thing. They think you carry yourself well on the field and that you really know the game of baseball. Was your dad a really good baseball player who you learned the game from or was it someone else?
"I have watched my brother since I was old enough to pick up a bat. My brother played at Chesterville. It is a small community. They always have a real good baseball team. That is where it started. I have watched my brother all my life. (Bryan Rea) went to Delta State. He has helped me a lot. Plus, just watching other people and picking up things from them has really helped me."
When did you really get serious about the game?
"We played for Chesterville. We used to travel all around. People from Memphis to Jackson always wanted to beat Chesterville. We always had the best players from Saltillo, Mooreville, everywhere. There were three fields out in the middle of nowhere."
It sounds like a field of dreams.
"It is. It is a neat place."
I can tell you have a love for baseball. Have you gone to many showcases?
"I did, but fall ball has been the best exposure that I have ever had. We play every weekend. We have played at State or Ole Miss. There is not a weekend when a pro or college scout is not at our games. I was invited to a showcase in North Carolina, but I can't go because of the state tournament this weekend. I was invited by Bob Rossi of the New York Mets. It is a wood bat (tournament). A lot of colleges (coaches) go to it. I know Ole Miss is going. I don't know if anyone else is going."
I guess it really doesn't matter if you go to showcases now, since you are already so well known?
"I don't have to do anything now. I just committed (to a college) last week."
You did? Who did you commit to?
When did you commit?
"I committed last week."
Who did you call to commit to?
"I called coach Polk the day after we went down to talk about (scholarship) numbers and told him I wanted to be a Bulldog."
What did he say to that?
"He was excited. (Assistant) coach (Tommy) Raffo recruited me the most. He is a class act. They are all first-class. I called coach Raffo first to get coach Polk's number. He was also excited for me."
I'm surprised your commitment has not been in a newspaper.
"If (a newspaper) ask, I'll tell them, but I'm not going call them."
You must not know how highly thought of you are in the state?
"No, not really."
I've talked to a few pro scouts. They think a lot of you. They say you are a natural.
"That's exactly the word I've heard before. I played with Kennard Springer last year. [Springer was probably the top player in Mississippi last season.-Gene] Being on the same team with him helped me out a lot. A lot of scouts came to see him play. At the end of the season there were at least four scouts at every game. I talked to (Mets scout) Bob Rossi, who is a good friend of mine. He told me, 'you see all these guys coming back. They came back to see you.' I was shocked."
Was that when you first realized you might be a pretty good player?
"Yeah, I guess so (laugh). The thing that has really helped me was hustling and playing hard."
A lot of players hustle. Considering how highly the pro scouts think of you, there has to be more than hustle?
"I have pretty good hands, but my bat has carried me. My freshman year was when I learned a lot (about hitting). I didn't know anything about hitting to the opposite field or anything like that. My brother, who played for Delta State, came back and taught me how to do that. My freshman year I hit .448. My sophomore year I hit .494."
Then you hit .613 your junior season. How in the world can you improve on .613?
"I don't know. Kennard got walked a lot his senior season. I'm getting ready for that."
Where did you bat in the order last season?
"I batted second. That helped me because I batted in front of him. They had to throw to me because they didn't want to walk me."
Since you batted second, are you a good bunter?
"I can bunt. I used to drag bunt all the time when I was a freshman and sophomore, because I didn't have that much power. I have worked hard on the weights and gotten stronger and hit a few bombs this year."
How many home runs did you hit this past season?
"I hit four."
I'm surprised. Truthfully, you aren't that big of a guy?
"I'm 5-8, 5-9."
Let's talk about other things you feel make you a good player. I know you have pretty good hands and have a really good bat. Any other things folks have told you you do well? How are you defensively?
"My defense could be better. This summer I have gotten better. When I went to the State camp, coach Polk worked with me on a few things. I have been trying to work on what he showed me."
How good is your arm?
"It is pretty good. I have always played shortstop."
I kind of got off the subject. Getting back to your commitment. What schools recruited you?
"Ole Miss, Delta State and State."
Did you have a scholarship offer from all three?
"Yeah, they all offered."
Did you grow up a fan of any particular school?
"Not really. I have liked Ole Miss football, but I liked Mississippi State baseball because of the atmosphere. That place can hold up to 14,000 to 15,000 people."
Are your parents and brother fans of any particular school?
"My parents are Ole Miss fans and my brother was an Ole Miss fan. Now, he is a Delta State fan."
What was it about Mississippi State that caused you to choose them over the other colleges?
"It is a good atmosphere. There is a great possibility that I can step in and play at shortstop. That was a big plus. I also prayed about it and felt real good about it. My parents like Mississippi State baseball and their coaches. Their coaching staff is unreal. Coach Polk told me, and this is a good quote, 'when you come to a game for a visit, this is what I want you to do. I want you to pick out two players, two players who aren't starters, and talk to them after a game.' I thought that was pretty neat."
I've really enjoyed talking with you, Jeffrey. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
"Thanks, I've enjoyed it."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.