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.






April 11, 2006

Ready for Spring Break


Last week was a short week for us, but a lot of things happened. I had to have some work done on my car, which is the reason why we couldn’t make last week’s blog, which I’m really sorry about.


However, I’ve got a feeling that this week’s blog is going to be a lot more bulky than usual.


What had happened was that we left for Ole Miss on Tuesday, and I got a phone call from our manager telling me that I had a broken window in my car. I had thought that maybe a rock had flown up and hit it from someone cutting the grass and asked him if he could put a bag over it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as my car had been broken into and my wallet was stolen. It is partially my fault because I left my wallet visible, and no one is going to break into a car assuming that a wallet is there.


So last week I had to run around and do a bunch of stuff because of that. I did want to say that campus police and everyone else involved have been really helpful, so hopefully these people that stole out of my car will be brought down soon. My only advice is to put your wallet somewhere that no one can see it. Don’t leave it up to chance, because though I know that I wouldn’t steal, we live in a world where you have to take precautions because other people may not think the same way that you do.


So with everything that I needed to get taken care of last week, I never got a chance to sit down with my “main man” Joe to mix anything up about what happened last week. It would have been mixed emotions anyway, because even though I would have been happy because we beat Ole Miss, we also had to deal with coming off two out of three losses to Memphis on top of my car being broken into, which were tough things to go through.


So to catch up, last week was a short week. We practiced Monday, had a game on Tuesday against Ole Miss.


We went out there against Ole Miss, and the main thing was that our pitchers threw strikes, we made plays, they had three errors while we had zero and we capitalized on those three errors every time with at least two or three runs. That’s the bottom line, as it would have been a closer game that could have ended up as 8-6 if they wouldn’t have had those errors.


It was really cool to play at Trustmark Park in Pearl. That was probably the nicest ballpark that I’ve ever played in, in terms of the overall facility. They even have a crew of 20-50 people that specifically work on that field daily. Don’t get me wrong, I love our park here at “The Pete,” but everything about that park was perfect. The atmosphere was great for that game with the amount of fans that were there. I do feel that we had a little more fans than they did, considering that we are closer to Jackson than they are, but at the same time, Ole Miss has a big following in the Jackson area, so who knows what the exact number of Southern Miss to Ole Miss fans were in attendance. The reason I think we had more fans was because we had more to cheer about, as we were always ahead.


Overall, it was a fun game to be a part of, especially since we scored a lot of runs with two outs, which is what I thought was a big deal. We fought and fought, and with two outs, we never gave in. That was the reason why we had a lot of big innings. I remember that Jody Blount helped me out after I had just struck out, which I don’t know how I missed that ball, but Jody came up behind me in the clutch and had a big two-out single, and the next guy got a big two-out hit and it kept going.


After Ole Miss, we traveled to Dallas Baptist for the weekend, and we scored a lot of runs and did a lot of good things with the bat. Dallas Baptist is a great hitting team, and they came out and swung the bat well too. There was a gale-force win blowing out of right field that you could pop any ball up and it was going to leave the yard on Friday. There weren’t any home runs on Saturday, but on Friday you could just sneeze and the ball would go over the fence. Unfortunately, Scott Massey had to pitch at the worst time on Friday. There was one pitch that popped up to right, and I screamed at Jody Blount to let him know that the ball was coming to right field. Jody went all the way back and stood against the wall, took a jump at it, but couldn’t get to it. That was the kind of unfortunate luck that Scott had that day, but we battled back down 6-0, and we took the lead 7-6 in the fourth inning and never looked back to win the game. When you get up on a team, 6-0, it’s kind of hard when they come back to hit you in the mouth for seven runs to take the lead.


I remember a game two years ago when we were in a similar position, just on the opposite side of it when we played against Mississippi State (April 6, 2004 in Hattiesburg). We scored eight runs in the first inning, and they came back and took the lead 10-8 in the fifth. After that, it was almost impossible to get any more runs in that game because our momentum had been taken totally away from us. Momentum is a big part of baseball, and a big part of sports, but especially baseball because there’s something about the game that if the guy in front of you does it, then you’re going to do it too. For instance, if you get a hit, then the next guy’s going to get a hit and so on. However, bad plays are the same way such as when the guy in front of you strikes out. Then you go up there and you start thinking about batting with one out and no one on base, and you start to have a different attitude towards your at-bat. You might be trying to do too much, and then you get down in the count, fall into defensive mode down at 0-2 and then you’re fighting to keep the ball in play instead of fighting to get on base.


In the third game on Saturday, momentum bounced back and forth. After two high-scoring games for us on Friday, things got back to a regular baseball game with a 5-4 score on Saturday. We didn’t have any field goal kickers, or touchdowns thrown, it just stopped at 5-4 with us being on the wrong side of it. We took the lead 1-0, and then the next inning started with them reaching on an error and then two successful bunts. These bunts were perfect, as even Juan Pierre couldn’t lay down a bunt better than these. At this point we have bases loaded and no outs, and we get a guy to pop up to the infield for an out, then we had a real good pitch get called a ball when we thought it was strike three, so the guy gets a weak single on the next pitch and they end up finding a way to roll up five runs in that inning. We battled back behind Todd Johnson, who had a great weekend and had a big hit in that game. Drew Carson also played well in that game, but things didn’t work out for us.


There was a weird play in that game where Drew Carson was called out for leaving the base early in the eighth inning. First off, the ball was crushed by Bailey Hartel, which would have been over their heads if the wind wasn’t blowing in. However, instead of going over his head, it dipped in front of him and put some top spin on the ball, and the guy dived for and made a great play to catch it. I was disappointed that he caught the ball, as I thought we were going to be running it all day long on that play and not only tying the game, but taking the lead. It was hard to judge when he would catch the ball since he was diving, so Drew thought he had already caught the ball and took off. He obviously didn’t, they made the call and we were unfortunately on the wrong end of the call.


I was watching the play happen, and I thought that it was a given that we were going to score the run. So honestly, I didn’t watch when Drew left, but judging from Coach Berry’s response, he left a hair early. In Drew’s defense, it was a weird play that was chaotic. The guy lays out to make an unbelievable play, leaving you in amazement that he caught that ball. Drew came by me a couple times after that apologizing that we lost the game because of him. I told him that he had scored two runs in the game, and we never would have been in the position to win the game had you not scored those runs. We wouldn’t have even been in the game if it wouldn’t have been for his offensive production. This is baseball, and at least it’s not the last game of the year. So we still have time to learn from any mistakes that we make.


Drew’s a good player who always plays hard. Nobody’s mad at Drew. The guy made a great play, and you tip your hat to him. Their dugout was obviously heads up that he left early, though I don’t think it was that early, and they appealed to the umpire and he apparently saw what they saw. Regardless, we still had another inning to get a run in and win the game, so you never want to put the blame on one person on one situation. I got picked off of first base early in the game with nobody out, and you never know, maybe I would have scored if I wouldn’t have gotten picked off.


Dallas Baptist is a good team whose RPI is probably in the 60s or 70s, which for an independent team that has no league, is pretty good. They’re not in Conference USA, SEC, Big 12, or any other conference, but are still in contention for a regional. For us, taking two out of three is good to get on the road. We wanted to win all three, but we were still happy to get those wins. We were riding a high from the first game to the second in a doubleheader, as I don’t think any of our hitters felt that they could get out in that second game.


It was great for our team to play the doubleheader. I didn’t play in the second game, as I think I was the only position player not to play in that second game, considering that it was a doubleheader and I catch, so you don’t want to catch 18 innings in one day. However, Trey Cuevas came in and had a fine job behind the plate. So playing all day, everyone came out thinking that they were going to get a hit every time and they pretty much did. They battled us the best they could, but just like Memphis last week, you match them inning for inning, but it’s hard to match a team that’s hot, and we were hot all day Friday, and there’s not much you can do about that.


Looking ahead at this week, it’s Spring Break and there is no group of guys that I would rather be hanging out with right now then my teammates, and I believe all of my teammates feel the same way. We’re a family, and I think that a lot of people who are on the beach right now would trade a week of that for a season in our uniforms. It’s also always better to play at home during spring break. We played at TCU for Spring Break a couple of years back, and it was a long trip. It cut our break off on Thursday because we had practice on Monday, games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and traveled on Thursday to get to TCU, so we didn’t get a spring break. We missed our days to sleep in for traveling, though on the positive, we didn’t have any class. It’s also good to be home because it’s Easter weekend, which is always good to be home for that because the Easter Bunny knows where to find me in Hattiesburg, but he doesn’t know where to find me on the road.  


I know that Spring Break is a week of fun, but honestly now that I’m 23 and have been able to look back on everything and take trips down to the beach, there isn’t a whole lot of good that can come from it. You could have a good time, but chances are that somebody in your party could end up in trouble with the law or with a girlfriend! I went down there once my senior year in high school with about eight guys, and we came back fine and intact, no ones relationships went sour because of it, no one ended up in jail and we had a good trip.


Spring Break is fun, but I, personally, don’t mind not having a Spring Break. Spring Break for us is getting to be like a professional baseball player for a week, because all you do is sleep, come out to the ball park and you hit, play baseball and don’t have class. On Tuesday when we have a game against Southeastern, I’m going to feel like a big leaguer. I’ll wake up, have my coffee, read my Bible and head out to the ball park around 2 or 3 o’clock, though I’ll take my time in the morning, of course.


I think Scott Massey and I might go to Cracker Barrel to have some biscuits and gravy – “EB” is what we call it – then come to the ball park, and it’s time to play ball. I love our Spring Break because of days like these, as we all like to look at it like we’re professional ball players for the week.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Conference Sweep (3/27/06)

The Arms Race (3/22/06)

Midweek Showdown with the Crimson Tide (3/14/06)

Getting the Offense in Gear (3/8/06)

Leaning on the Freshmen (3/1/06)

The Fun has Begun (2/21/06)


(photo courtesy of Southern Miss Media Relations Office)