Ole Miss pitcher Stoney Stone has spent most of his summer in Oxford working out and improving his pitching. The tall senior right-hander from Ruston, La., and Texarkana Junior College wants to contribute even more to the Rebel cause when the spring of 2006 rolls around.
Stone didn't get to pitch as much in 2005 as he'd have liked, but when he did get the call he came through.
His record was 3-0 with a 3.92 ERA in nine appearances with one start. He struck out 19 and walked just five in 20.2 innings. But his most memorable moment of them all came in the second game on Saturday in Hoover, Ala., a 4-2 Rebel win over Florida which vaulted Ole Miss into Sunday's title game.
Stone got his lone save of the season that day, and it was a huge one. He relieved starter Tommy Baumgardner, who also returns this season, and went the final three innings. Stoney struck out four Gators, walked only one, and allowed just two hits. He still looks back on the moment and smiles.
"I think a lot about that day," said the 6-foot-6 Stone, whose clinch fist pump picture after the final out made many newspapers the following day and week. "Hopefully that day showed what I can do. I was able to go out there and get the job done."
Stone could have played summer baseball but chose to remain at Ole Miss this summer instead, as did a handful of his teammates and some newcomers to the team. But it's not necessarily a cakewalk to stay in Oxford for the summer. The workouts and conditioning are obviously designed to make the players and the team as a whole better.
"All summer I've just been working with one goal and that's to become a better pitcher," said Stone, a Louisiana All-State pick as a senior in high school as well as being selected to the 2003 NJCAA Junior College All-Star game. "One thing I've done a lot of is hit the weights hard. I work with (strength and conditioning) Coach Noel Durfey, and we've tried to develop my lower body to get my legs stronger. I need a better push off the mound. Leg strength is so important to a pitcher. I have to work harder at it because I'm tall and lean and not thick and muscular. I've also thrown some to build endurance."
Stone didn't arrive at Ole Miss until January 2005, so this will be his first fall practice session with the Rebels. He's going to make the most of his opportunities during that time.
"Not getting here until January just put me behind with everything," said Stone, drafted in the 13th round out of high school by the Red Sox and in the 34th round the following year by the Rockies while in junior college. "This fall will give me the opportunity to go through that and to kinda catch up with everything. So I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to go through a fall practice."
Stone, a Harley Davidson rider and enthusiast, knows he needs to improve in several areas and is working to do just that.
"I definitely have to get better," said Stone, who played on the U.S. National All-Star team that toured China in the summer of 2004. "I need to work on my breaking pitch. My fast ball is OK but can be better. I feel my changeup is good, and I need to develop a curve ball."
While he's working to make himself better, he's also helping some younger kids become better baseball players, too. Stone is helping coach a 7-8 year old team in the Oxford-Lafayette Fundamental League.
"It's great to be able to help them," Stone said. "To teach them, to watch them learn how to compete, and to play the game for fun, that's what they do. It's mostly just teaching them the fundamentals, like where to throw the ball on certain plays, who has which bag on double plays, things like that. Just teaching them things that will stick with them from now on."
No doubt Stoney is a positive for those youngsters. Just listen to his words of advice to kids written in the Ole Miss baseball media guide for 2005.
"Try your hardest to achieve your goals," he writes on his biographical page. "Don't stop because you fall once, twice, or a hundred times."
Sounds like the advice Stoney Stone might just be giving himself every day as he looks ahead to his final season of college baseball with the hope of contributing even more to a winning Ole Miss Rebel baseball program.
Stoney Stone wants to help Rebs in '06
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