[Premium Article] Every Mississippi State player during the Ron Polk era is familiar with the "Ron Polk Playbook." The playbook is one of the most well known books on baseball fundamentals, technique and strategy ever written. And, every MSU player becomes very familiar with the book during his stay at MSU."> [Premium Article] Every Mississippi State player during the Ron Polk era is familiar with the "Ron Polk Playbook." The playbook is one of the most well known books on baseball fundamentals, technique and strategy ever written. And, every MSU player becomes very familiar with the book during his stay at MSU.">

Joseph Hunter: Focused for Success

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/baseball/2003/josephhunter.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="156"> [Premium Article] Every Mississippi State player during the Ron Polk era is familiar with the "Ron Polk Playbook." The playbook is one of the most well known books on baseball fundamentals, technique and strategy ever written. And, every MSU player becomes very familiar with the book during his stay at MSU.

For freshman centerfielder Joseph Hunter the first time he became familiar with the playbook was not the beginning of his Bulldog career.

"My dad was the guy that went out and bought all of those books, and I have known about Ron Polk for a long time," Hunter said. "I have had that book for a long time. Every night when I came in from a game and there was something I didn't do right, my dad would highlight that part and leave it on my bed.

"When he (Polk) gave me that book I knew what it was and what was in it, but at the same time it is real now. You really start to see that everything he says in that book is what you have to do on the field."

Hunter credits his dad for helping him during his early years in baseball, but that is not where his learning stopped. While in high school, Hunter played for Germantown High School.

"Coach (Phil) Clark is just an amazing coach and he really teaches you how to play the game," said Hunter, who batted .397 with 10 double, five triples and three homeruns during his senior season. "We were said to have the toughest schedule in the country during my senior year, and that just prepared us for the next level."

During his senior season, Hunter made a big decision about his baseball future. Hunter and his family decided the best thing for him was to bypass the Major League draft and focus on playing college baseball.

"I think that decision really relieved a lot of pressure, because I was able to just play and not really press," Hunter said. "I still had calls asking if I would want to be drafted, but I really wanted to come here and play for coach Polk."

While bypassing the draft might have been a tough decision, Hunter said that becoming a Bulldog was a very easy decision. The biggest reason for coming to Starkville was none other than Ron Polk.

"After I got to meet with coach Polk, I told coach (Tommy) Raffo that I was coming to State," Hunter said of his decision. "I didn't really grow up a fan of any certain school, but I have always loved college sports."

So far, the early preparations and decisions have helped Hunter to succeed on the field for the Bulldogs. During his first weekend series, Hunter impressed Bulldog fans in all aspects of the game, but one play has stood out in the minds of all involved with Bulldog baseball.

Visiting University of Connecticut had the tying runner on second base when the batter laced a linedrive into the outfield. Hunter raced over, picked up the ball and fired a strike to home to nail the runner. The Bulldogs went on to win the game, their first win of the year, 4-3.

"Craig (Tatum) did a really good job of making the play at home," Hunter said. "The ball was what coach Polk calls a six (linedrive), so it got to the outfield in a hurry and I was able to get over to it. I don't want to sound conceited, but I know my arm strength, and I knew I had a chance of throwing him out if I made a good throw."

Bulldog fans have been given ever more to be excited about with the play of the young centerfielder. After notching his first double and triple of his Bulldog career against UConn, Hunter hit his first homerun the following weekend against East Tennessee.

No matter what his early success is, Hunter knows that he has some big shoes to fill because of the number on his jersey.

"We didn't get to pick our numbers, so when I walked in and saw '6' next to my name I was kind of surprised," Hunter said. "I called my dad and told him I was number six, and he said, 'you know who's number that is?' I knew it was Palmeiro's number. It is an honor to wear his number, but I don't think there is any added pressure."

Now he gets to focus on going out and playing everyday, but despite being a freshman, Hunter likes his chances of succeeding.

"Getting to play the level of competition that I played in high school and during the summer has really helped me," Hunter said. "Going out there now, nobody really knows who you are and they don't have scouting reports on you. But, I think I am prepared to play. The intrasquad games really helped, and I have had to face Paul Maholm in practice. That will really get you ready."

While he has already impressed Bulldog fans and coaches with his knowledge of the game, speed, arm and offensive ability, Hunter hopes to leave his mark in another area.

"My favorite player right now is J. D. Drew, but not just because of his baseball ability," Hunter explained. "I think the biggest reason I look up to him is the way he carries himself off the field, being a strong Christian and a role model on top of being a five-tool athlete.

"That is what I want to be and what I want to do. I want people to look at me and say, 'he is not only a great baseball player, but also a great Christian.' I want to be the type of person that you would want you son to look up too."


Grant Alford is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. He is a student at Mississippi State University. You can contact him by email at sportswriterdawg@yahoo.com.

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