Draft days filled with emotions for many

It's always a terribly bittersweet time, this baseball pro draft day or two of early June.

Lately, fortunately, it's come between Regionals and Super Regionals, and so the Rebels are still playing. Time was when that wasn't the case around here. That helps to make it a little bit easier to take.

There are those who say this is just the way things are for bigtime programs, that talented players come in, play well, and are gone, sometimes in only three years. It all happens so fast.

On one hand, you're excited for the players; on the other hand sad to see them go. And they normally go, if they can.

Will Kline and Zack Cozart were drafted Thursday. Others, like two-year team captain Justin Henry, could be drafted Friday. Some of them might have decisions to make. Not Kline and Cozart. Second-rounders don't usually think twice about it.

Oh, they love college baseball and Ole Miss. They've said that. But the dream was playing for pay someday. Always has been since they were kids. College baseball and three or four years at Ole Miss were only a part of the grand plan.

Will Kline. We waited a long time for him to come of age as a Rebel pitcher. I remember distinctly Mike Bianco saying a couple of years ago, "Will Kline has to pitch here."

I took that to mean this: the Will Klines of the world, an area pitcher with great stuff, potential big-league stuff, had to succeed at Ole Miss, or the program wouldn't have a chance to flourish on the big stage. When Kline's career finally took off during the '06 season, he soared.

Zack Cozart, we hardly knew ya. Sure, we get to watch both you and Kline play for the Rebels for another weekend and hopefully two or three more weekends. But gosh, your stellar college career flew by quicker than a Will Kline fastball.

Late on Thursday, Kline and Cozart said they were elated and relieved. Their dreams were coming true. You could hear the thrill in their voices.

But they quickly pointed out there was still work to be done for Ole Miss. These are two Ole Miss guys, one from an hour east, the other an hour north. They won't be totally happy until the Rebels get to Omaha. And they want to be the ones to lead them there.

It will only add to all this early June bittersweetness if their Rebel careers end out there in the desert southwest. That just won't seem right. No, they need to end their college careers right where they've always talked about heading one day – to Omaha and the College World Series.

And they can. College teams with no hope don't get to Omaha. They don't play in Super Regionals and win Regionals year after year.

Those that do succeed and advance have a Will Kline and a Zack Cozart on their team, and other teammates of ability and drive and talent and determination.

The programs that the Klines and the Cozarts help build are like the one that Ole Miss has today.

Zack Cozart said Thursday in his heart he's an Ole Miss Rebel, but in the not too distant future he will also be a Cincinnati Red.

"Go over there and get No. 1 to sign it," Bianco told a young Rebel fan with a baseball after a game on Swayze Field not too long ago, one of those special Sunday afternoons when the kids run the bases.

"He's going to play in the big leagues some day," Bianco said as he pointed him in the direction of Cozart, who was already surrounded by admiring youngsters seeking just a moment with one of their heroes.

Will Kline said his mother offered to bring him a Tampa Bay Devil Rays cap to the airport in Tupelo late Thursday as the team chartered to Tempe. But he told her that could wait. This was still all about Ole Miss, and he'd get that cap when this season was over.

Yep, it's all bittersweet now, and while it's a special time for the players, it isn't so easy for those who would love to see them stay just one more year. Happens every year just about this time in June.

The players have their hopes and dreams; so too do their fans.




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