Guerrero strives to win an outfield spot

All over the field there are players. In the outfield there is an abundance of talent and experience.

Returning players in the Ole Miss outfield include Logan Power, Fuller Smith, and Jordan Henry. But some newcomers are making a run.

Every position is open, Mike Bianco has told his team. No spot is safe, even if you played there last year.

That approach has made veteran players work harder, and it's made a host of talented new players feel they've got a better than average shot.

It's one of the things that's made fall ball for the Rebels appear to be a more intense and more focused situation. There's a lot of energy and effort out there, and there seems to be an importance placed on fall ball this time around that, while not necessarily missing before, might be at an even higher level.

It's a combination of things. Part of it is the proclamation about the players all starting at a level playing field. And it also has to do with the maturity of the players, especially many of the newcomers who have brought a drive and energy to the program that is apparent.

Look no further than Michael Guerrero and a catch he made in center field on Sunday. Guerrero knows there is competition for playing time. He knows there are veteran outfielders on this team. He knows there are talented new players out there.

So he gives a little extra to make something happen. He goes all-out, like they all appear to be doing, to make sure that since this series of practices through early November is basically a tryout period that he does all he can to make an impact and an impression.

Fall baseball is about that. It's like spring football except longer and with more days for coaches to teach and more days for players to try to prove they're the ones.

A ball hit off the bat of fellow newcomer Logan Williams was headed in the direction of Guerrero in center on Sunday, but he would have to move fast to have a chance to get it. Guerrero raced from his position. He wasn't going to get to it just by running and lifting his glove to catch it. No, this would take more of an effort than that.

Guerrero wants to play this spring. At that moment he didn't have a chance to say to himself, "Here's a chance to impress." He just acted on instinct.

So the speedy Guerrero ran back, he turned, the ball got closer and he wasn't quite there - yet. He dove, laying out parallel to the ground. It was all in an instant, but it was almost like he was trying to make a catch to win an SEC game next April or a Regional championship game next June.

He didn't have to give up his body for it. But he did. It's what baseball players do, at least those who want to play.

Guerrero got there just in time, caught the baseball, slid front-first across the green fall grass of the outfield of Swayze. Raised up his glove to show he caught it as the hundred or so in the stands gave their offseason approval and as his teammates, some of the ones he's actually trying to beat out, yelled out to him "good job; way to go, Guerrero."

It was just one moment and may or may not be "the play" that pushes Guerrero past other teammates or gets him more playing time.

Who knows? But that's a whole lot of what fall ball is all about.

"As the ball came off the bat, it sounded pretty good," said the Southaven High and Meridian CC product. "I just took off running. I thought it was going over my head. But I ran back and dove and caught it."

That was a relatively simple assessment of one of the more spectacular plays of the day. As the 5-foot-11, 187-pound junior raced off the field following the catch, he said to another teammate, "I didn't think I was going to get to that one." He received high-fives and glove pats on the back from those who knew they'd witnessed quite an effort.

He repeated that statement later.

"I didn't think I was going to get to it. I was fully extended and, I don't know, it was a pretty good catch. It felt good."

A little humility there, but he knew. It was a moment for the coaches to write down on their notepads and put in their memory banks when assessing fall ball later this calendar year.

Guerrero played right field at Meridian CC last spring. He was in center as a freshman. This fall as he debuts as a Rebel, Guerrero has played all three outfield spots.

"They're kinda switching us out," he said.

There's that tryout thing again. That's what this time of year is for.

Guerrero, with a strong arm - he's thrown out a couple of runners at home this fall, said things have gotten better for him lately, especially at the plate.

"I started out slow, but I kinda turned it around today, went 2-for-4 with a couple of RBI. And I hit a home run yesterday, so it's starting to come around for me."

Guerrero knows every positive is a help for his playing-time cause.

"There's no favoritism out here. They (coaches) will give the best one a shot. They'll start a freshman over a senior if they have to."

That's good to know for a newcomer like Guerrero, who might have a couple of years here and might only have one, depending on his season and the June draft.

"I came in wanting to be a starter, but I have to earn my spot," he said. "I'm just out here learning as I go. I don't think there's a single guy out here that doesn't get along with another one. We're a close group. I like everybody. There's so much talent. I've never been on a team with this much talent. You can't take a day off. The veterans are showing me the way, so I'm just running with it from there."

And obviously running after every ball he can possibly get to.


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