Moving Out

He played shortstop much of his first season and second base much of his second. Now veteran junior Tim Ferguson heads to the outfield for year three, hoping to find a home in center field.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound speedster is enjoying his first week of fall ball playing a long way from the infield.

"I've always wanted to play out there," said the Beaumont, Texas, native. "I can use my speed, and it's been fun. I've worked with Coach (Matt) Mossberg a lot. I feel good and actually love it out there."

It's a new experience for Ferguson, but he did play some outfield in Cape Cod during the summer.

"I played left field and right field up there," he said. "I did not play center."

A familiar face was manning the CF spot.

"Jarrett Parker from Virginia was in center field," he said. "He was on our team up there, and he played great."

Since he returned from the Cape, Ferguson knew he was headed to the outfield. There are obviously some adjustments.

"You have to be aware of a lot of things," he said. "One of the most important is the spin off the bat. It's so much more difficult (to monitor) in center than it is in left or right. There's the difficulty of judging and adjusting to the way the ball is spinning in the wind. But the other side of it is you have to worry about hops (in the infield), and in the oufield you don't have to. So there is some give and take both ways."

Freshman Tanner Mathis of Lake Charles, La., has also been in center field some this fall, vying to replace speedy Jordan Henry who left after last season and is in pro baseball with the Cleveland Indians organization, a seventh round pick in June.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Ferguson may have found a home.

"We moved Tim to center field because we recruited a few infielders, and we really feel in our heart that may be more of his natural position," the 10th-year Rebel mentor said.

Like most players, Ferguson has aspirations about playing professionally. Bianco obviously knows that.

"This is his draft year, and he will be draft eligible this season," Bianco said. "So we want to find if his true position is the outfield and take a shot at it. We'll go with it this fall. He looks terrific out there so far."

The position requires more than speed and ability. There is some instinct and learning as well. Bianco said having the tools is only part of playing the outfield.

"Just learning the position. It's one of those things that I think some people take to easily and some people don't," he said. "To me outfield play is all about reading the ball off the bat, the reads, the angles, and less about speed. Speed enhances your ability. But if you don't have the ability to get jumps on balls and get good angles, it's tough."

Bianco gave an example of a recent former player who was an excellent outfielder that wasn't the speediest among them.

"A guy like Brian Pettway was tremendous out there, and obviously running wasn't his strong point," he said. "But he did a great job in the outfield, because he got great reads off the bat and he took good angles at the ball. I don't ever remember speed being a negative out there for him. Seems like he got to every ball he was supposed to get. Other guys that might have run better than Brian might not have gotten to some balls. There are some adjustments, and some adjust better than others.

"Tim's done well at it so far. He's done it a little bit for a couple of years during BP, shagging some balls in the outfield. With his body and his speed, he looks the part. I think he's going to do great out there."

The fall practices, which continue through the weekend of Nov. 7, are important for the whole team, and especially for players like Ferguson who are making a move.

"Just get better. Just keep getting better, especially defensively," Ferguson said. "I'm swinging the bat well. I'm just trying to get more patient at the plate, get some more walks. So at the plate I feel good, and I'm starting to feel better in the field."


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