Arkansas native ready to be a Rebel

Michael Hubbard is working out in his home state of Arkansas this summer, but thanks to a late recruiting push by Ole Miss, the JUCO outfielder will soon suit up for the Rebels instead of the Razorbacks.

The power-hitting presence just finished a prolific season at Fort Smith Community College and will battle for playing time right away in the Ole Miss outfield. Slugging was a downfall for the 2007 Rebels, but Hubbard could help solve that problem as he hammered out 21 home runs and more than 80 RBI this past spring along with a .375 average.

"I had a good year and am ready for the next step," Hubbard said. "I hit a lot of line drives and am very patient. I like working counts and avoid making bad swings on the first pitch or 1-0 counts."

Arkansas had the location advantage and a month head start, but Ole Miss worked fast and gained a commitment merely three weeks after first contacting Hubbard. The Bentonville, Ark., product was impressed with the campus along with Oxford.

"I visited in the middle of May and liked the town, campus and also the coaches," Hubbard said. "The coaches were very thorough with everything and so organized. I loved the staff and knew it was the right place. They continue to impress by keeping up with me and always call to see how I am doing."

That was Hubbard's first time in Oxford, but he had heard about Ole Miss' program before thanks to someone close to Rebel baseball.

"I played for a travel team in high school that was coached by Coach Ketchum," Hubbard said. "His son C.J. was at Ole Miss so we always heard about how good everything was going over there. It gave me an idea what to expect even from that far back."

Living near Fayetteville would have made Arkansas a logical choice, but Hubbard experienced staying away from home early this summer with the Madison (Wisconsin) Mallards of the Northwoods League. The Mallards are stationed more than 10 hours from Hubbard's hometown and attempt to simulate a minor league baseball environment with overnight bus trips and wood bats.

"That was a big change for me and something that will help," Hubbard said. "In a way, it was a good month even though it ended early. It makes Oxford not a big deal."

Hubbard is one of three JUCO outfielders ready to play right away, but he hasn't peaked at the incoming competition or the returning athletes from last season.

"I honestly haven't paid any attention to it," Hubbard said. "I know what I am capable of and have to play at the best of my ability. I am staying tuned up this summer by hitting and working out. It is important not to change anything. I'll be ready in August. It is exciting to see what's in store and get started."

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