Looks Forward To The 2008 Season

Mississippi State sophomore catcher Ryan Duffy, after backing up the top catcher in the nation, Edward Easley, the last two years, will now get his chance to shine.

While having the best catcher in the nation didn't allow much leeway to get in the starting lineup early on, Ryan Duffy also had some adjustments to make hitting-wise once he set foot on a college baseball field for the first time.

"When I first came in I had a lot of confidence, but I wasn't really ready," he said. "I didn't hit very well my first fall here. I needed to work on the mental approach to the game."

And it wasn't just the on-the-field adjusting, he also had to get used to being out on his own for the first time in a structured type setting.

"I (not only) had a hard time adjusting to the level of play but everything else off the field - things like classes and getting everything in order," said Duffy. "The biggest adjustment was just learning how to be organized. That was kind of tough."

He also had to deal with some homesickness, but he overcame that much faster than the organizing.

"I was pretty homesick at first, but now this is my home," said Duffy, who came to Starkville from Naples, Florida. "I don't even think about that anymore.

"I usually get back home once a year on Christmas. Sometimes I get Thanksgiving. I love going home, but it's almost bittersweet because it's so beautiful down there - you have the beach and you can go fishing."

While there's no beach nearby, Duffy still came up with his own entertainment last year such as doing a backflip prior to a game.

"I started that last year after we got killed by South Carolina on a Friday night," explained Duffy. "The next day I was kind of messing around and kind of did it to get the guys to not think about Friday night. We ended up winning the next game late, so it kind of just stuck from then on."

Now that he's likely going to be a starter this season, he's not so sure he will be able to continue his pregame extracurricular activity.

"I don't know if I will be doing it this year, but I may have to teach someone else how to do it," said Duffy.

But he's leaving his options open ... just in case.

"If we hit a little bump in the road, you never know, you might see one come out," he said with a slight smile.

But Duffy doesn't expect many bumps in the road with this team because of its overall depth.

"We could probably have four or five different starting lineups and still compete at the same high level," said Duffy. "And the pitching staff is looking really good. We will go as far as our pitching staff will take us. Those guys have a lot of experience and a lot of playing time. And the depth of the pitching is awesome. We even have some new guys that are going to come in and play a lot for us."

New guys - and a not so new guy - on the pitching staff that have caught his attention include true freshman Michael Busby, Jared Wesson (sat out last year recovering from surgery) and sophomore Ricky Bowen.

"Michael Busby is looking really good," said Duffy. "He has a great pitcher's mentality. Busby is the type guy who, if you get a hit off of him, he is going up to you and tell you you got lucky. That's just how he is and that's what so awesome about him.

"I know he played last year, but I think Ricky Bowen is going to have a big impact for us this year.

"Jared Wesson is going to make a big impact for us. He is looking really good. His arm strength is great. He has a great fastball and he can locate so well. And he can keep you honest with his offspeed stuff. He has a quality changeup, curveball and slider to go with his fastball."

As far as where Duffy fits in the team puzzle this season, his goals are simple and completely team-oriented.

"Hopefully, I am going to hit some line drives and help the team out as much as I can," said the humble youngster. "I just want to help the team out any way I can by moving runners and scoring runners."

Duffy will get his first chance to drive in runs this coming Friday afternoon against the University of North Florida.

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 email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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