Coghlan's Home

Chris Coghlan says the Marlins' new home stadium in Miami won't open until 2012. Today, he toured another one he helped build.

Not with manual labor, mind you. No, the former Ole Miss star, along with his teammates the past decade, helped lift a Rebel baseball program that outgrew its stadium.

So today, Coghlan checked out the new and improved Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field for the first time.

"I cannot believe it," he said as he drove up to the place where he stopped by to play for three seasons from 2004-06 on his way to the pros. "It's awesome."

That's also how his week could be described. It isn't every day a baseball player gets to add such a title as National League Rookie of the Year to his list of accomplishments. Earlier this week, that is indeed the word he received.

"It's amazing and such a blessing," said the Florida native who was a part of Ole Miss' first NCAA Regional and Super Regional. "Every time someone asks me how it feels, I just say I'm blessed that the Lord has put me in a situation to be able to do the things I'm doing. It's very special."

Just getting to the major league level for the vast majority of players never materializes. Coghlan not only made it but got there in a hurry.

"There's a low percentage, if you make it at all, and it's about five years on average to get there," said the 24-year-old Coghlan, who made it in two and a half. "Once again, I just feel blessed. It's also the Marlins, which is an organization that gives young guys the opportunity to succeed and move up. I was fortunate to have good years every year."

This year, especially since the All-Star break in July, Coghlan was more than good. His 113 hits since that time were the most by any National League hitter - rookie or veteran - in the past 45 seasons from the All-Star break to season's end.

His 47 hits in August were the most in any one month by a NL rookie since Wally Moon in July, 1954 (52 hits). Coghlan also had 47 more hits in September, and he was the first NL rookie ever to lead the league in hits after the All-Star break.

He batted .321 for the entire season (.372 after the All-Star break) with 47 RBI and nine home runs. Coghlan had hit in the middle of the lineup during his career. When he got called up, he hit leadoff. Only the Yankees' Derek Jeter had a higher on-base percentage than Coghlan's .397 among major-league leadoff hitters with at least 400 at-bats. Jeter finished at .409.

Coghlan signed with his homestate organization in July, 2006, just a few weeks after the Miami Hurricanes had eliminated the Rebels from the Super Regional in Oxford. He was playing professionally by the end of July.

In 2007 he played half a season in Low A and half a season in High A. In 2008 he moved up to AA. This year he played 30 games in AAA and then moved up – not as in infielder that he'd always been, however.

"The last game in AAA they sent me to the outfield to give it a shot," he said. "The next day I got called up."

At Ole Miss he was a third baseman. In the pros he had mainly been at second. Now he was in the outfield, left field to be exact, and almost learning on the job.

"It's a different experience being in the outfield," he said. "I credit my teammates and coaches for helping me adjust. I only had that one game to get ready to move up."

Coghlan is indeed a fast learner. That was back in the spring. And now he stands as the best rookie of them all in the senior circuit.

"That very first game we were playing in Colorado," he said. "So my first game I was playing against (former UM teammate) Seth Smith. The day before I had taken my first fly ball in the outfield."

His career then took off. He credits a lot of people along the way, including those at Ole Miss.

"Coach (Mike) Bianco and the coaches here helped me so much," Coghlan said. "He was interested in us not only as players but also as people. He's a great coach, and he helped me so much in baseball and in life.

"So many people at Ole Miss have been special to me," he continued. "I still have a lot of friends here and so many people who are supportive. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Ole Miss and the people here."

And the stadium he took a tour of today at Ole Miss wouldn't be what it now is without players like the National League's newest best rookie.

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