A Dream Come True

While growing up it was a dream of Russ Sneed's to play for the Mississippi State baseball team. Now, not only does he play for them, but he's the starting third baseman on the team that is heading to the College World Series.

Russ Sneed:

"It was my dream growing up to play here," said the redshirt freshman. "Every single weekend I wanted to come to a Mississippi State (baseball) series. I know I got two balls signed by the entire team. I probably have 15 to 20 foul balls from when I was little."

While all the games he attended were fun, the postseason games were especially fun to watch.

"The regionals was one of the best experiences," noted Russ. "I was at the North Carolina regional and the Notre Dame regional. And whenever we were playing Washington (in a regional)."

Now he's playing and not watching, although earlier this season he wasn't exactly sure if he would be starting or watching from the bench if MSU appeared in a regional at the end of this season.

"I started the first game of the year, then for 14 games in a row we saw righthanded pitchers," explained Russ. "And after that I think Coach Polk felt comfortable with the lineup he had. It was a waiting game there for a little bit."

While waiting for his next chance to come he did what any good team player would do.

"I tried to keep a good mindset and came to practice and games and work hard ever single day, hoping that I would get a shot," said Russ.

Then, Russ' chance came when he took over for slumping true freshman third baseman Connor Powers during the last series of the regular season, the Alabama series.

And he's stayed in the lineup ever since, batting .321 with 1 home run and 6 RBI during the nine-game span that included the SEC Tournament, the Tallahassee Regional and the most recent Starkville Super Regional. And that batting average was earned against quality pitching, including six pitchers that were drafted in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds of last week's Major League Baseball Draft.

Until this past weekend, the games that may have been the most fun were the ones played at the Tallahassee Regional.

"(The Tallahassee Regional) was great, especially when it was against Florida State," said Russ. "They are a perennial powerhouse baseball school and have a great head coach. Going there and playing a national seed on their home field is any kid's dream. Then, getting an opportunity to start at third was just a lot of fun for me in front of their fans. They didn't have more than 4,000 to 5,000 fans, but I can promise you they were a lot louder than that. It was a lot of fun playing in front of them."

But the Tallahassee couldn't compare to what Russ and his teammates experienced next.

"It was the best thing in the world to be out there in front of all those people," said Russ of the Starkville Super Regional crowds. "It was awesome. It was the best atmosphere in the country, no doubt."

However, Russ and the rest of the MSU team weren't sure what to expect crowd-wise going into the regional, not because of the fans, but because of the unusual time of the games.

"Since it was an 11 o'clock start (for the Friday and Saturday games) we were kind of worried that the numbers would be down a little bit," he noted.

But, as anybody who knows MSU baseball fans, there was never any reason to worry.

"When we came out here both bleachers were packed," said the youngster. "And we knew all of the people would be behind us and that we would be tough to beat at home."

And Russ, being an MSU fans himself, understands why the State fans came in record numbers.

"Mississippi State fans have been waiting for another opportunity because they haven't had much to cheer about for the past few years," said the youngster. "I felt like we would have a nice crowd and people would be coming out from just about everywhere to see a Super Regional here."

They did. And Russ is loving every second he gets to play in front of all those fans.

"It's a lot of fun being here especially after growing up and admiring those guys," said Russ. "It was a dream come true for me just because I've always wanted to come here."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, 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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