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.






May 10, 2006

Lucky Charms


Joe [Trahan, USM media relations graduate assistant] and I just finished our lunch at Lake Serene Grocery, which is a fine establishment in the Hattiesburg area that I was introduced to by [redshirt sophomore catcher] Trey Cuevas. The meatloaf is above all other meatloaves in the world, and I had to take Joe and introduce him to the meatloaf! Along with meatloaf, they also have country fried steak, and Joe was leaning towards getting the country fried steak until I said, “Look Joe, trust me on this one buddy - get the meatloaf.” I know Joe’s been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and eaten a lot of food, but I couldn’t let him get away from that meatloaf. So we enjoyed a great meal, and we’re now riding back to practice full as ticks - loving that “full” feeling.


Onto baseball - this past weekend, my fiancé Samia came to see us play for our weekend series against East Carolina. She lives in Atlanta, so she’s only been able to come to seven games this year, with us winning all seven games that she’s come to, including two sweeps (UAB and East Carolina). The first game that she came to was the first game that I’ve had off all year [Coker has only taken four games off all season]. Though she came to watch me play, and though I didn’t, the bigger picture was that the Eagles won. She then came to Birmingham, Ala., when we played UAB, and we started conference play off 3-0. So it’s kind of nice to know that every time she comes to watch us, we win.


We had been struggling a little bit before she came this weekend, so she suggested that maybe she could help us get back on track. So she comes in town and bam! - we had three straight wins consisting of a miracle win on Friday (11-10 in 11 innings), a nice, poised comeback victory on Saturday (8-5) and then a blowout on Sunday (10-1). She very well might be a lucky charm to me and the team! I play well when she comes to watch us play [Coker posted five hits, two home runs and three RBI in the weekend series against East Carolina], and I think I’ve had a hit in almost every game she’s come to. She’s very special to me, and she’s become very special to the team. The coaches even joked with her about it when they walked by her after Sunday’s game, asking if they needed to fly her into New Orleans this weekend! Whether she’s lucky or not, she’s a joy to have around because she’s always smiling and pulling for the team. No one player is more important to her on this team, though she may be a little biased for me, but regardless, she’s probably more biased to winning because she knows that I’m a lot happier when we win.


She’s going to come to New Orleans this weekend for the series against Tulane, but we’re not going to talk about sweeps - we’re going to talk about Friday night. If we can win Friday night, then there’s always a chance to take a sweep, but only after taking that first game.


With that said, we’re throwing two new weekend starters in Barry Bowden on Friday and Ryan Belanger on Saturday, along with Cliff Russum on Sunday. I think they’re both ready for their starts, as they’ve both had some midweek success for us this season. While they were throwing midweek, we also had our weekend starters who had been the same since about week three or four, which had been steady for us. Not to take anything away from the guys that have been starting, because Scott Massey (6-3) has put six wins on the board for us, and David Clark has done really well for us. However, at this time of year, it’s up to coaches to make any changes they deem necessary. Right now, Barry and Belanger might be throwing the ball a little better, but we’ll still see Massey and Clark coming out of the bullpen to contribute with the main goal being to win no matter who’s out there. You never know what could happen, as both Barry and Belanger came in last weekend to save the game for us, Massey and Clark could do the same thing this weekend. They’re both proven leaders, and whether they’re starting or coming out of the ‘pen, when I get them on the mound I feel as confident as I ever have.


As far as playing Tulane, there’s a lot of history between us and them. We have not had the success that we would have liked against them. We took two out of three from them in 2003 during the regular season, along with beating them in New Orleans for the C-USA Championship, and we took one out of three against them last year when they were ranked No. 1 in the country. Prior to that, I don’t remember us taking many games from them. Both times that I’ve been to Tulane (2002 and 2004) for a regular season series, we’ve been swept. However, I’m not feeling so bad about it because leading up to this past series against East Carolina (since 2002), we had never won a series against them - and that includes the 2003 team (47-16, C-USA Champs) that featured Jeff Cook, Stephen Castleman, Bob McCrory and all those other guys. If we couldn’t win two out of three from them then, who would have ever thought that we’d sweep them now? This team has something about it that gets me excited because its character and the overall swagger are beginning to develop.


All we can do is go down there this weekend and begin with Friday by looking to Barry Bowden to do a fine job on the mound for us, and we’re going to back him up by hitting the ball behind him. After that, whatever comes out of it will come out and hopefully that will be a couple of wins for Southern Miss if we take them one at a time like we did for East Carolina.


The only setback that I’m worried about going into this weekend’s series is that we only have two practices this week because it’s exam week. You can’t get more than two practices in when you have exams, because you have to allocate time for studying because school is more important. Personally, it feels great to finally be done with classes and exams, as I now feel like a professional baseball player. From here on out, you show up to the ballpark and it’s time to work because all you have to worry about for the rest of the day is baseball. Once baseball is over for the night, I’ll go back home, kick back, watch a movie, play some Playstation, hang out, go to bed at a decent hour and come back the next day ready to work. At this point, we’re all putting our feet back saying that this must be what is feels like to be a professional ball player.


Though I am glad that I’m done with classes, I’m not glad that I’m almost done with Southern Miss because this school has been very special to me. I am a Golden Eagle for the rest of my life - I’m a Golden Eagle at heart, and I bleed black and gold. No matter what, it will always be with me. It’s kind of sad to say that college is over, but at the same time, it feels great to be done!


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Four Wins Heading into Exam Week (5/3/06)

Getting a Good Look at No. 1 (4/27/06)

Ready for Spring Break (4/11/06)

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)