Another Opportunity

Jordan King didn't get a lot of opportunities last season as an infielder for the Ole Miss Rebels. When he left to go home for the summer, he knew a position change might be in his future.

The Northwest Rankin alum, who went to Southern Mississippi out of high school for one season before landing at Meridian Community College, played in 13 games for the Rebels last spring. When he got back to campus for the fall semester, he was headed for the outfield.

King, a senior, and sophomore Tanner Mathis spent most of the fall in center field. Since the team was divided for so many intrasquads, both got a lot of time there. Mathis said in an earlier story he felt it was a two-man race for center field, and the other had a good shot at left field. King feels the same way.

"We both played at a pretty high level this fall," said King, who batted .278 during the fall scrimmages with three doubles, a triple, and one of the team's 13 home runs. "I'm assuming one of us will be in center, and the other left. Or a lot of things can happen. (Right fielder) Matt Smith may have to play first base. Just a lot of different things that can happen."

King has normally played third base and shortstop. That's where he was at both USM and MCC. In junior college he played all shortstop.

There's more depth on this Ole Miss team. King, a former quarterback at Northwest Rankin, is athletic and fast. Those are good attributes for an outfielder, especially a center fielder.

"It was mainly about speed, I think," King said of his move from infield to outfield. But he also recalls it worked well for another recent Rebel.

"They tried it with Tim Ferguson last year, and I think that was part of it," King continued. "That's just a change Coach (Mike Bianco) wanted me to make, and to try to pick it up as easily as Tim did."

King admitted some skepticism about the move but knew he was capable. And a former Rebel outfielder on the coaching staff was a key to him becoming comfortable in his new environs last fall.

Jordan King

"I was looking forward to getting an opportunity," he said. "Never having played out there, I didn't really know how it would go. Coach (Matt) Mossberg is really good with us out there, and brought me along pretty good."

There were some challenges, King admitted.

"I'd say probably the toughest thing was just having to learn on the go, every day, something new," King said. "I was just trying to play that in my head between every pitch. Now it will be a little easier, and I can go out there and play. I feel like I know it a lot better now. But with Coach Mossberg's help, things weren't really that hard to pick up."

As for hitting the baseball, King joins his other teammates in adjusting at the plate to the new NCAA-mandated bats.

"They're definitely going to make a difference as far as power goes," he said. "But you still have to take the same swing, and you still have to have the same approach. If you hit the ball well enough, it's going to fly no matter what bat you use. I think that's what the coaches have tried to get us to think about, that everybody has got to play with these bats, not just us. Just to take the same swings and not worry about it so much. It's not just Ole Miss that has to hit with these bats. Every team in the country does, and that we can hit it no matter what bat we use."

Ole Miss had recruited King out of high school, but Southern Mississippi was his best option. After having some shoulder problems and a broken jaw during his only season to play at USM, he left for Meridian CC to play. He then considered Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Coastal Carolina to play his final two seasons, along with Ole Miss.

"In the end I wanted to be close to home," he said. "Being from Mississippi, playing in Mississippi was kind of a big deal to me. So I picked Ole Miss. I'm totally happy with the choice I made and wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

King said he wants his last season of college baseball to be special.

"Having been here in the program last year has made a difference," he said. "Just being a little older and being around it all, it just makes you that much more confident this year. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

"The team chemistry on this team is one of the best I've ever played with. There are a lot of new guys, and we all seem to play well together. We have a lot of fun. From day one it seemed like it all clicked. We're going to make some things happen. I can't wait for it to start."

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