A closer look at 3rd base - part III

Dan Black can play third or he can catch. He can play first, he can DH, and he says he will try the outfield if the coaches want him to. He's a switch-hiiter who obviously brings a lot to the program. He just wants to play and win.

Dan Black strolled up for a photo session Thursday afternoon with his catching gear on. That was a day after he was playing third base.

And if you see the Rebels' current No. 20 at the plate, you might see him on the left side of it. Or you might see him on the right. He's a switch-hitter.

Black, of Carmel, Ind., is a dominating presence at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He can hit the baseball out of the park basically with ease – from either side of the plate. He's another in a long and growing line of talented players who have become a part of Ole Miss baseball in this era.

"I've been ready to get to college for a long time," said Black, who noted that Indiana and Furman were among his final choices, but that he was also recruited by Alabama, Clemson, and South Alabama, among others. "IU was close to home and they have a coach that I like. But nothing compared to this. Everywhere I went, I always came back to here. The facilities here are the best, and I was just treated so well for those couple of days. I was just dumbfounded how great this place is. I committed and got ready from then on to come down."

So far so good, he says, even when talking about competing for the third base spot.

"It's going well," Black said of his efforts to become the Rebels' starting third baseman. "Everybody's really new at the position. Evan Button, Cody Overbeck, and Devin Hicks were all here but didn't play third last year. And I'm new here. So it's all just a battle, really, for the starting position. But it's more than that.

"It's making sure you work hard every day, making sure you're getting your reps done. It's making sure you do things right. Somebody will get the spot, and we're all trying to be the one."

Black, who says he will likely major in journalism with an emphasis on TV/radio/broadcast, was recruited mainly as a third baseman.

"But they (Ole Miss coaches) found out I was a catcher, and they took a liking to that," said the Carmel High product, who signed with the Rebs in Nov. 2005. "I want to do whatever it takes to play this year. As a freshman, I want to travel. I want to help us win."

Black, a 2006 Louisville Slugger High School All-American, joins Indiana's 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year Andrew Clark on the Rebel squad this season. Fellow Hoosier Lance Lynn, the sophomore UM pitcher, is also here. They all knew each other back home.

"We all had the same hitting and pitching coaches at Roundtripper Sports Academy (in Westfield, Ind.)," he said. "We all trained and worked out there. So all of us being here together is good."

Black says being a big guy has its advantages playing third base.

"To me, third base has always been a step and a dive," said Black, whose family lives in the same neighborhood in Carmel as Rebel hoopster Todd Abernethy's. "Being tall and long is kinda nice. I can cover a decent amount of area. I'm no (Zack) Cozart. I can't go as deep in the hole and make a play. I just get my glove out and get the ball. My arm's pretty strong. I've been throwing a lot more in college than I expected. It was sore earlier, but I stretched it out on the arm bands (that the players use which are attached to the fence that works their arms). So that's helped."

Black is versatile enough that he feels he can play a number of positions. It's a trait that's being seen throughout this year's ballclub.

"I can play first. If they want to DH me, I'll do that. I've never really played outfield, but I can adjust to it if I have to."

Team player, no doubt. This team is filled with those.

"A lot of keys to who plays will be how well you hit," said Black, who throws right-handed. "If you're hitting, your chances are better. If not, maybe you won't. As a catcher you have to be really good defensively just to get in the lineup. It's a bonus if you hit. But it's always better if you hit."

In Black's case, he's one up on the other players. He can hit it lefty or righty, the only Rebel listed as a switch-hitter for 2006-07.

"When a righty throws, I hit lefty, and when a lefty throws, I hit righty. Simple as that," said Black, who attributes his dad with moving him back and forth to each side as a hitter when he was younger. "It makes it easier when breaking balls are coming toward you rather than away. It makes it tough on the pitchers (in games), but in practice it's a little tougher on me because you only get four rounds of BP. So you have to alternate. While everyone else focuses on their one side, I have to split my time. And sometimes I have to come back after practice and get my hitting in."

Black says he's pretty much equally productive from either side of the plate.

"It just kinda came naturally for me, and I'm comfortable from either side," he said. "My left-hand swing has more of a loop in it, and my right-hand swing is more of a line-drive swing. That's just kinda how it's developed."

Dan Black obviously brings a lot to the table for the Ole Miss Rebels. Getting in the lineup and on the field appear to be his main goals.

"Whenever I get my chance, I'm eager and ready for it," he said. "I just want to play."

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