Making A Difference

Brantley Bell didn't know anything about Ole Miss, which hosts Arkansas State Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., until he was recruited by the Rebel baseball program. Then he quickly found out a lot.

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Some of the information came from an old friend of the family, David Dellucci. The former Rebel player, a teammate in the major leagues of Brantley's dad, Jay, told Brantley he couldn't go wrong by choosing Ole Miss.

"He said it was the best place in the world to come," said the 6-foot-2, 175-pound infielder. "He certainly loves it here, and so do I now. I can see why he came here in the first place."

Bell is a part of a talented class of newcomers to the Rebel baseball program. He began to show signs that maybe he should see more playing time as February moved to March.

He's played in 16 of the Rebels' 21 games to date and is batting a team-best .442, with nine of those 16 being starts. He's scored nine runs and has six RBI so far. He's also had four doubles.

"I'm just trying to do my job, getting runners over and getting them in," said Bell, whose hometown is listed as Phoenix, Ariz., having attended Mountain Pointe High School. "The biggest thing for me is not to chase the hits, but just keep a solid approach and the hits will come."

His father has had a tremendous influence on Brantley's game, as anyone would imagine. Jay played high school baseball in the Pensacola, Fla., area and was recruited by Ole Miss back when Jake Gibbs was head coach. But Jay was chosen in the first round of the 1984 draft by the Twins right out of high school. He was in the major leagues from 1986 through 2003 with five different teams.

Jay Bell was the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. This season he is the bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Brantley has been around the game since birth because of his dad.

"It was awesome seeing him play every day while I was growing up, getting to go to the ballpark and being around good guys like David Dellucci and all his teammates. It gave me a goal to strive for," Brantley said of being in a baseball family. "My first word was baseball. It's all I've ever wanted to do."

Brantley said his dad continues to assist him as he begins his college career.

"I modeled my game after his. I'm really a visual learner. Every time I'm back home, he'll get out there and demonstrate things, not really critique on the physical game but more of the mental game. Keeping solid approaches and getting new ideas in your head to see what works for you."

Rebel hitting coach Cliff Godwin said watching Bell work his way into significant playing time has been special to see as a coach.

Brantley Bell
Bruce Newman

"He kind of had to work his way into the lineup," Godwin said. "A pinch hit here, a pinch hit there. It's a tribute to him (that he has moved into an everyday role). He works hard. He goes about his business the same way every single day. Earlier in the season he didn't know if he was going to be in the lineup or just pinch hit. But it's a business-like approach every day. And that's why he's had success."

Brantley, who has started the past seven Rebel games, obviously wants to keep up the good work.

"I'm seeing it great right now," he said. "Hopefully I can make it last the whole season."

Brantley was a shortstop in high school. He's had to adjust to playing both third base and currently mostly second base since he's been at Ole Miss beginning with fall ball.

"Defensively I'm confident in my abilities to develop as a defender," he said. "I feel that will come along as well as the hitting."

He admits he already senses teams are becoming more aware of his hitting.

"At South Carolina on Saturday (in games two and three), I think I only saw two fast balls," Brantley said. "I think of myself as a fast ball hitter. So there will be some adjustments to those breaking balls and changeups. But with the nice facilities here and the great coaches we have that work with us, they'll help us with any part of the game we need to work on."

Brantley said the support Ole Miss baseball receives from Rebel Nation is basically what put him over the top when choosing The University of Mississippi for college.

"Really what got me were those home run showers and all those fans out here," he said. "They're so passionate for the game."

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