Kevin Coker is a senior catcher for Southern Miss who will contribute a weekly journal to in 2006. A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Coker started 52 games last year for the Golden Eagles, batting .318 with five homers and 38 RBI.  Off the field, Coker enjoys fishing and shooting pool.






March 8, 2006

Getting the Offense in Gear


I’m currently on the bus taking time out of my card game to catch up with everyone before we play Louisiana Tech in Jackson tonight.


This is one of two games that we play in Jackson this year (4/4 Ole Miss). We are playing at Smith-Wills Field, a field I grew up playing on, so I always enjoy playing here. Plus, they have Astroturf on the field, which is kind of neat because it adds a different feel to the game.


It is only an hour bus ride to get there, so there isn’t that much grouping up among the players. A lot of time, we will group about four of us up and play spades or something like that. Right now, everyone is kind of keeping to themselves.


Marc Maddox and Cliff Russum are watching a movie on Cliff’s IPod. Oh yeah, speaking of IPods, I’m not in the IPod club yet because I don’t have one. If you don’t have an IPod, you’re not in the cool club, because almost everyone on the team has one. A funny story about IPods happened when we were leaving the South Alabama tournament. Coach Palmer told everyone on the bus that he needed to talk to us, and that everyone needed to listen, so Coach Burroughs told everyone take off their headphones and turn off their IPods. Then Coach Palmer turned around and said, “What’s an IPod?!”


While everyone else is playing with their IPods, I’m playing a game of Gin with Drew Carson. It’s a fun game that we play to pass the time. I’m hoping that being around Drew will allow me to swing the bat as hot as he has lately. He’s hit three home runs in his past three at-bats.


Last night, we had a good outing for Southern Miss baseball as we scored a lot of runs (season-high 18). Against UL Monroe, we got to get out there and swing the bat well all the way to another victory (18-5). I finally got a hit, which is good, as I’m trying to fight my way out of a slump.


A note about that game, Coach Burroughs, who is our hitting coach wasn’t at the game last night, but he called me after the game and said that he was going to keep on recruiting and stay on the road if we continued to hit like we have been the past two games! I feel that we’ll continue it tonight against Louisiana Tech, and hopefully we’ll hit the ball against them like we did last night when we got hot and kept the bats alive.


Baseball is a game of streaks and getting hot, and getting hot is contagious because right now, we have everyone in the lineup hitting. It starts at the top with one of our hottest hitters, Toddrick Johnson, who gets it going. Trey Cuevas is also playing well, and Marc Maddox had a big night last night to come out of his slump. Marc has been hitting the ball well, but he has just not been getting hits. He’s been hitting line drives right at people, but last night, they finally started to fall for him. I think regardless of any numbers, Marc is still the best hitter we have and will continue to be the best hitter we have. It shows a lot about his character in how he keeps a positive attitude all the time, regardless of if hits are falling or not.


I feel that everyone on the team in general is starting to click. Our freshmen are still doing what they’ve been doing, and that is to just hit as they all are great hitters. We also got some good outings last night on the mound, and got a lot of good work in from some guys who haven’t had an opportunity to pitch yet this season. Patrick Ezell had a good start and got some work in.


Marc (4-5, two homers, five RBI) had an awesome game against Louisiana-Monroe last night, but there’s nothing different about him from the beginning of the season until now, except for a bigger smile on his face because the ball is going for him now. He’s been hitting the ball well, it just hasn’t been falling for him until now. That’s baseball for you, and that’s the hardest thing to swallow in this sport when you’re hitting the ball as well as you can and it’s just not leaving the yard. He hasn’t had many breaks this season, but I still see the same guy.


The thing with me is that I’m defensive first and offensive second. I always put pride in my defense, which is what I do better anyway. As far as being in an offensive slump, I’m a happy-go-lucky guy who always tries to stay as positive as I can, but it’s tough when everybody else is going 3 for 5 or 2 for 4 and you’re sitting over there 0 for 3 with a walk and a hit by pitch.


But at the same time, I’m embracing my walks right now to get on base as much as I can. I haven’t been getting the hits that I’m capable of doing, which is hitting singles and getting on base.


Whenever I get a walk, I always hustle down the line towards first base. It’s something that I was taught in high school that has carried over to how I play collegiate ball. I didn’t have a single walk in my freshman year in only 38 at-bats, but in my sophomore year in one of my early at-bats in the year when we were playing Alabama, I took a walk and sprinted down to first base. I don’t know what it was, but I haven’t stopped doing it ever since. It’s something that I’ve stuck with since I was 15 years old, and it’s the way I like to play the game.


Another thing that I’m proud of in my offensive game is that I currently lead the team in being hit by pitches (7). I was telling some people a couple of weekends ago that if I can’t get a hit, I can at least get hit by a pitch. Basically, my philosophy is that if I can’t get a hit, I will get hit. I do crowd the plate a little bit, and sometimes get hit by pitches that could be borderline balls or strikes just because I stick my elbow out there. The funny thing is that I’ll get into an argument with an umpire about a guy sticking his knee out to get hit by a pitch, when I do it once a game! So it’s fair to say that I’m tolerant of pain on the field for whatever it takes to win.


Our big philosophy that Coach Burroughs tells us is to try and win every inning, because if you win every inning, you will win the game. If you score and they don’t score, and you do that more than they do, then the likelihood of you winning the game is very good. We go out there and we try to score in every inning, and yeah, we did look to the scoreboard and realized that we scored in every inning last night. We took it as a challenge, even when the game was almost over, that we would attempt to score in every inning that we can. Even if we had two outs, we had guys step up and hit a bomb to live up to our challenge.


Last night was one of those games that is fun to watch as you can sit back and enjoy the show. When you build a lead that big, there isn’t as much pressure on you, as you have the ability to see the ball and go after it without worrying as much. It is amazing to watch a game like that, even as a player, to see how far some of our guys can hit the ball.


Last night I was on base for Drew Carson’s second home run, and we had a cool moment at home plate after he hit it. I crossed the plate and then he came right behind me just grinning and pointing at me, which was neat to see. Everyone has their own thing that they do when they cross home plate.


I hit behind Marc Maddox last night, so for both of his homeruns I was the first to greet him, which feels pretty cool. We have fans out there and our parents are big fans, but I think that we are each other’s biggest fans. I think that every player wants the other player to do just as well as he could. I want Marc to do just as well as I do, and the same goes for everyone.


We are like a big family, and you know whenever someone does well in the family, we all celebrate. I have three sisters, and back when I was growing up, when my sister did well in a soccer game, we all got to go out to dinner afterwards to celebrate. The fact that one of us does well, means that we all can celebrate. When my sisters come down to watch us play, they get a good trip out of it and then we get to go out and have a good dinner. It’s a big celebration and that’s what it’s like whenever one of us on the team hits a home run.


When Marc and Drew hit the ball as far as they did last night, it was fun to watch, and that is what our park is known for. At “The Pete” the ball is supposed to go.


Unfortunately at the beginning of the year, we didn’t hit as many home runs at our park or others because the wind was blowing from the side and stuff like that, but right now it is definitely fun to watch how are great hitters hit the ball out there.


So as I’m looking at everyone on this bus right now, things are definitely different depending if we win or lose. After a win, everybody is on their phones with 30 conversations going on in which you can hear all of them. But after a loss, if someone gets on their phone, they usually creep down in their seat and talk really low because after you lose, everybody’s mad.


I think that everybody takes a loss the same way on our team, and I think that’s the way that it should be. The only loss we’ve had this year on a road trip has been against South Alabama at their tournament. We felt that we shouldn’t have lost that game, but we get another shot at them in two weeks (3/21). Overall, winning makes the ride home easier, so hopefully we can go out there and get a win tonight against Louisiana Tech.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Leaning on the Freshmen (3/1/06)

The Fun has Begun (2/21/06)


(photo courtesy of Southern Miss Media Relations Office)