To borrow and reinvent a phrase from the late Lewis Grizzard, the College World Series starts today and I don't feel so good myself.
Oh I've moved on like most have and know that always in sports one wins and one loses. But I join thousands who know this Ole Miss baseball team was not about losing. It was about winning and breaking new ground and almost making it to Omaha.
I think the best perspective I've heard on the whole thing was from a close friend who doesn't attend many games but follows and listens on radio.
"That we're upset we didn't make the World Series oughta tell us how far we've come. Used to be we went to the baseball games when there was absolutely nothing else to do."
He's right. But when you get so close to the goal, it's still hard for everybody to take.
Seven teams and Texas are in the CWS. The Longhorns are the lone returnee from last year.
It hit me sometime this week that the Rebels truly would have had as good a chance as anybody at winning the whole thing given the fact that hardly any team up there has any experience, and none were there last year except Texas.
Talk about a level playing field. I would have liked the Rebels' chances had they been there instead of the Longhorns.
But it didn't happen and so we live with it. Baseball fans, while loving this team, already talk about next year.
I tried to talk a little with Mike Bianco earlier in the week about who would play where and who were the players coming in and if there would be more signees, things like that. And while we discussed things a bit, he made it clear that for a few days he wanted everyone to continue to focus on the season just finished, the players involved, and all they had accomplished.
"I still believe it needs to be about them for a little while," he said, fully understanding that sports now is a day to day thing and that as soon as one game or season is over, it's on to the next.
So I came up with a lineup for next year of my own that goes something like this:
First base – C.J. Ketchum or Jon-Jon Hancock or Brett Bukvich
Second base – Justin Henry
Shortstop – Zack Cozart
Third base – Chris Coghlan
Catcher – Justin Brashear
Outfielders among these – Mark Wright, Alex Presley, Scott Van Slyke, Ketchum, Hancock
DH – Several among the best hitters – a Ketchum, a Hancock, a Wright, etc., depending on the lineups.
Pitchers – Tommy Baumgardner and Stoney Stone from this year, along with Will Kline, Justin Cryer, Hancock, Bukvich. Then there are several juco pitchers signed recently, like RHP Nick Hetland and LHP Garrett White, along with RHP Matthew Rozier, and LHP Craig Rodriguez (who signed earlier). There are the high schoolers like star RHP Cody Satterwhite as well as RHP Wes Grilliette, RHP Wade Broyles, RHP Chase Ware, and RHP Rory McKean.
High school signee Lance Lynn may be the biggest worry of all concerning the incoming players. The big 6-5, 255-pound RHP was drafted in the sixth round by the Mariners. So the Rebels await word as the summer moves on.
Van Slyke is also another the Rebels have some concern about. The son of former major league veteran Andy Van Slyke, the St. Louis area native was drafted in the 14th round by the Dodgers. Reportedly Scott had said he wanted to be drafted as high as the fifth round to go pro. But it continues to be a waiting game here, and the Rebel coaches are hopeful.
John Davis of the Oxford Eagle took a look back at not only this year but the past five years of Rebel baseball. While Ole Miss has been to the CWS four times in its past and won six overall SEC titles, the past five years didn't include either of those accomplishments.
But it has been the best five-year run in the program's history, all things considered. So Davis had several of us vote on an All-Bianco-era team.
Two points. One, it was difficult not to just put every starter on this year's team on the list. Secondly, there were others who deserved to be on there from other teams.
So still we went at it. There were, I think, 15 of us voting. There were eight position players, three starting pitchers, a closer, a designated hitter, and a utility player.
There was no right or wrong in all this. Some will agree, some disagree.
Two things to remember. It was all in fun. And there have been some pretty good baseball players come through here the past five seasons.
There were three unanimous choices on the team – outfielder Seth Smith, third baseman Chris Coghlan, and pitcher Mark Holliman.
What, you say? No Stephen Head as a unanimous selection? That's right. He was not. Here's why.
Head was actually on every ballot but appeared at three different positions. So in a strange sort of way I guess you could say he was the Player of the Five-Year Period, which I think would be a unanimous choice by everyone if there was a Player of the Five-Year Period given. He could basically do it all, so his name appeared in several roles. That's greatness, and one of the many things that made him special here.
Here's the complete list.
First base – (surprise, surprise) Stephen Head. Also Lance Jones and Josh Christian got votes at first.
Second base – Cooooooooooop - Cooper Osteen. Also receiving votes at second were Matt Tolbert and Chad Sterbens.
Shortstop – Zack Cozart. Impressive true freshman, no doubt. Also votes at short went to Tolbert and Sterbens.
Third base – Chris Coghlan. Unanimous. Next year he could be even more special.
Catcher – Barry Gunther, team co-captain (along with Head) this year. Former catchers Charlie Waite and Carl Lafferty (Bianco's first team captain at UM) also got some votes at the position. All three were among the most dedicated players of the Bianco era, no doubt. Of course, being a catcher and being coached by a former catcher meant Bianco would make certain the guys at this position were special.
Outfielders – Seth Smith (unanimous), along with Burney Hutchinson (a team captain of the second Bianco team), and Brian Pettway. Also getting votes were a captain of the fourth Bianco team - Charlie Babineaux - and Josh Christian.
The DH – Josh Christian. Others with votes were Chad Sterbens, Charlie Babineaux, Zack Cozart, Mark Wright, and Brian Pettway.
Utility player – Alex Presley (should be ready for prime time as an outfielder and at the plate next season). Others in this category – Head, Cozart, Sterbens, Babineaux, and Jones.
Three starting pitchers – Talk about a tough category. How can you leave almost anybody out for the five-year period? But here goes.
Mark Holliman, unanimous. Pete Montrenes. T.J. Beam.
Matt Maloney got votes as did J.R. Pickens and Eric Fowler.
Closer – Who else? Mr. Stephen Head.
The All-Bianco team. Also call it the All-McDonnell team and the All-Lake team and the All-Bunn team since those assistants had a hand in getting things to this point.
There have been others, like former assistants Clint Carver and Butch Millet, from this era. And former Rebel coaches also were instrumental in bringing some of them in, like Lafferty and Sterbens and Hutchinson and Waite from the previous coaching regime.
All in fun. All in the spirit of sports. All about not only where this program has been but no doubt where it is headed.
You were lucky to have these guys and their teammates around to cheer for. We were equally as lucky to get to know them and cover them.
What a run to this point. And the future has never been as bright.
Hoops' Todd Abernethy and newcomers Trey Hampton and Xavier Webb were at the Super Regional last weekend. Other members of the basketball team should be here for second semester.
Some of them are either finishing up some course work this summer or awaiting NCAA clearinghouse status.
Carl Swanigan isn't coming to Ole Miss. At least not now. The 6-9, 340-pound center is heading to Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. The Rebels still hope he is here someday.
Bobby Clark, the 6-6 swingman from Callaway who went to prep school, still has some work to do it appears, and he's trying to take care of that now.
It looks good for the others, and come mid-August we should know more about how Rod Barnes' eighth Ole Miss men's basketball team will shape up.
With Lonnie Jackson having graduated with a year of eligibility left and Swanigan not arriving now, the Rebels appear to have a couple of spots open. If they fill them, we'll let you know.
More hoops – both men and women – when the second semester of summer school rolls around.
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