Diamond Dogs Make Summer Ball Plans

Naturally every one of them would rather be pulling on the maroon and white tomorrow afternoon in Hoover. But since the 2008 Mississippi State season has come to an early end, the Diamond Dog underclassmen are getting an early start to their summers playing league baseball all over the country.

Including far from the Lower 48 states, according to assistant coach Tommy Raffo who oversees where Mississippi State players spend their summer seasons. Raffo reported that as of now pitcher Tyler Whitney will be venturing farthest from the home field, playing for Anchorage in the Alaska League.

Four Diamond Dogs have secured slots playing in the famous Cape Cod League for now. Pitcher Ricky Bowen and middle infielder Brandon Turner are on the Bourne Braves roster, while third baseman Connor Powers and outfielder Jason Nappi are in the area neighborhood with the Brewster Whitecaps. The Cape League is generally regarded as the premier summer baseball circuit and many State players have spent their summers there.

"And we're trying to get a couple more in that league," Raffo said. "It's going to be difficult but with the draft (in early June) and some of the new rules going in, some spots are going to open up. Hopefully we know some things shortly." Players Raffo said State hopes to get in the Cape are first baseman Tyler Moore and outfielder Grant Houge.

Middle infielder Jet Butler is headed to the Atlantic coast area himself, but with the Newport Gulls in the New England college baseball league. Pitcher Drew Hollinghead is tentatively booked to play for Niagra in the New York league.

Many a Diamond Dog has honed his game in the Central Illinois college league, and at least two more are headed to Danville. Pitchers Greg Houston and Lee Swindle will be the latest State squadmen to play for the Dans. Outfielder Cade Hoggard is headed to a league new to Raffo, to play for Bend, Ore., in the Northwest CL.

Pitcher Jared Wesson is staying much closer to home. He will be in Jackson, Miss., in the PSA league. "That's the old Cotton States League that Chris Snopek took over," Raffo said. And one of the coach's old Bulldog teammates will be mentoring Wesson, too. "He's going to pitch for Pete Young."

Raffo said by next week outfielder Mark Goforth will know where he is to play this summer, as should a few more underclassmen. Of course many of these players, assigned already or not, are also awaiting the June round of the Major League draft before choosing who they will be playing for by mid-summer. Then there is the other obvious over-hanging factor as all current players and coaches await new athletic director Greg Byrne's selection and presentation of the new Mississippi State skipper, to take the place of the retired—but still on the job for now—Coach Ron Polk.

Byrne, who has limited public comments on the ongoing search, has previously stated that he expects to make his first coaching hire after the 2008 College World Series. The tournament ends June 24 or 25, depending on weather.

Three Bulldogs will not play this summer, as catcher Cody Freeman (shoulder), outfielder Ryan Collins (shoulder), and redshirted pitcher Paxton Pace (‘Tommy John elbow') recover from surgeries.

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