Button ready to battle for SS

Evan Button has spent two seasons as a valuable utility player for Ole Miss. Now, the Missouri native is ready to settle in at one spot. The one where its two previous occupants are now playing professionally.

The junior has been billed as "the shortstop of the future" since arriving on campus, and the wait is finally over to fill the footsteps of former All-SEC standouts Matt Tolbert and Zack Cozart. But the task won't be an easy one even now.

Incoming shortstops Tim Ferguson and Sean Stuyverson are also in Oxford with the same aspirations. Ferguson, a heralded freshman from Texas, and Stuyverson, a junior transfer who played a season at Florida State, will both push Button for playing time. He understands the competition and isn't shying away from the work ahead.

"That is why I came down here," Button said. "I could have gone to a lot of schools and played as a freshman. But instead, I have worked as hard as I can and gotten a lot better while I have been here.

"Just looking at this class coming in, just like Coach Bianco said (during team meetings), it is going to be a marathon (to gain a starting spot). We have some stout-looking kids, and it is going to be a good year. There are hungry-looking kids on this team."

Button remembers when he himself came to Oxford as a newcomer with expectations but was surrounded by talented returning players. It is different now. Button has matured and is prepared be an everyday player. And on top of that, he is ready to lead – with words and by example.

"I feel like this is my home, and I'm having a good time," added Button. "My freshman year I was scared, and my sophomore year was about where I was going to play. Now, I know I can help this team and I feel like a lot of guys look up to me. I am going to be a leader."

Button feels like those same early fears and hesitations will be possessed by Stuyverson and Ferguson. He doesn't think winning the job will be easy either way, but does Button hope the newcomers are hit with a little fear from the new situation?

"I hope so," he joked. "They are at Ole Miss which means that the guys are good and can play. But there is also some anxiety with new surroundings. Tim is a freshman, but you can tell that Sean has been here before as in a major college. Everyone wants to play, so it is going to be a battle."

Button spent his offseason playing middle infield for the Delaware Cows of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League along with Rebels Nathan Baker and Matt Smith. The experience allowed him to gain repetitions at shortstop after seeing time mostly at first base for Ole Miss in 2007.

His offense also improved thanks to a wood bat for a couple months.

"I felt good at the beginning and hit it harder than I ever have, even with metal," Button said. "But when you get tired and are in the heat, a little tweak in your swing will pop the ball up or roll it over for a ground ball instead of hitting line drives. I had a time where I had trouble, but I broke out of it. There is less margin for error."

There is also less margin in winning the shortstop position. Button may have been billed as the future at the position, but that won't make it a given.

Stuyverson and Ferguson will make sure of that.

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