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 16, 2006

Kangaroos in the Court, and a Swan Song at the 'Pete'


Note - The Southern Miss baseball team gathers at various times in the year to hold “Kangaroo Court,” where the whole team is in attendance in the locker room to witness accounts of minor wrongdoings by players and coaches with fines issued as punishment. Players and coaches place notes in a box at various points in the year that will be read during court with the plaintiff and defendant identified, followed by the hearing of the defendant who has the choice of pleading only guilty or not guilty. The court is presided over by the Honorable Coach Josh Hoffpauir.


We just had an interesting court session with the Honorable Coach Hoffpauir residing, along with Bailiff Cliff Russum. This is something that we’ve done for awhile, and Coach Hoffpauir has always resided over it. When I first got here, we would simply put the fines up on the board, with no opportunities to hear pleas. The way we do it now is more fun because everyone gets a chance to say something about it, like Ryan Belanger - who loves to speak out of turn, so he gets fined a lot!


We have a fun time with this, especially since we have some jokesters on our team like Brian Dozier and Bailey Hartel. Doing this gives us a little bit of money for ping pong balls and paddles, shampoo or other various things around the clubhouse. Luckily this time, I was not fined at all in my final Kangaroo Court. Believe it or not, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t talk out of turn (both of which you can be fined for). I kept a lid on it today, and stayed out of Judge Josh’s way.


Kangaroo Court is basically made for disciplining things like if someone leaves their glove or helmet on the field, or leaves their stool out of their locker - it’ll cost them 25 cents. I know that Kangaroo Court goes on in pro ball, but they actually fine you a decent amount of money ($50-$100) because they’re pro players who can afford to. It’s different from us, obviously, as I think our biggest fine today was $1. The things you get fined for are usually really funny stuff, like Bailey Hartel flexing his chest in the weight room - thinking no one’s watching; or Cliff Russum falling off the mound at Marshall when he’s trying to throw a pitch. This is basically like us getting at each other, as players, in a funny way. No one ever crosses the line, and if they do, it’s to an extent that we all laugh about it. The most anyone has to put in there is two or three bucks, and it all goes to helping small things such as ping pong.


Now moving from the fun stuff to the not so fun stuff - mainly, getting swept by Tulane last weekend. That was one of the hardest weekend’s that I’ve ever had to endure. To be so close in all of those games, and to be leading in two out of three of those games going into the end of the game, is tough. They played well down there, and are a good team. They aren’t nearly as talented as they’ve been in the past - and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that - but they play off of desire and fire. It seemed like every time we turned around, they had a guy in a good hitter’s count with a runner on base, compared to us who would get runners in scoring position and then get up 0-2 at bat with their pitcher bringing good stuff. It was almost like all of a sudden they flipped a switch late in those games and clamped down on us.


I hate the fact that we lost all three games. We are about the same team as they are this year. We’re just as talented as they are, but they wanted it real bad this weekend, and took it to us. It breaks my heart to even think about losing three games to Tulane, but they brought it to us and unfortunately, we didn’t match their intensity level. It doesn’t feel good to get swept by anybody, whether it’s No. 1 Rice or No. 20 Tulane, because we feel like we’re a team that shouldn’t get swept by anybody.


Looking ahead to this weekend - it’s senior weekend and it’s going to be a great time for us. No matter what, we’re not hosting a regional or super regional, so these are our last three games at “The Pete,” so it means a lot to us to win these last three games here. With as much as the fans have given us, and as much as we’ve given them, I think that everyone that comes to the park - including me, you, everyone in this locker room and everyone in that stadium - knows that when they come to the ballpark, we have to win three games this weekend. Everyone knows, regardless that it’s senior day, that we need a sweep this weekend against UCF to help our situation for the Conference USA tournament (May 24-28 hosted by Rice) and for a shot at getting in a regional. We need a certain amount of wins, and we need to start rolling beginning with Thursday.


UCF has a tremendous pitcher (junior right-hander Tim Bascom) who has a 1.82 ERA, but we respond well to good pitching. Other than when we faced Tulane’s ace, Sean Morgan on Friday, we’ve done well against other team’s No. 1’s. It was tough at Rice because we were down a lot, but we had some decent swings on Eddie Degerman, and we had some decent swings on Houston’s Brad Lincoln - with those two being two definite first rounders in this year’s MLB draft. So hopefully, we’ll be able to get these wins this weekend, no matter when they throw their ace. If they throw him on the last day, then he’ll go against Cliff on senior day - so good luck on that one. It doesn’t matter who comes in, Cliff is going to perform well this weekend, as he started the first game of the regular season here strong and he’s going to close out the final regular season game here strong as well. He loves the home crowd, loves his team and loves to be pitching in a big-time situation. This matchup will be fun to watch, but I’m going to take our guy.


This is a home series, and we feel that we should always win our home series. We’ve given away two this year to Memphis and Houston, and we do not want to give away the last home series of the year. As this is my last series at home, I’ll never forget how this crowd has always embraced me. I wasn’t that good when I came in, and I’m still not that good, but they’ve embraced the things that I do and the things that I’ve brought to the game - and I love them for that. I don’t feel like I have to go 4 for 4 to earn the respect of this crowd. They love the things that we all do on the field. At some stadiums such as Yankee stadium, the “boo birds” will come out even after the Yankees have ripped off 15 straight wins and if they lose one game by 10 runs, their fans are booing them. Our fans aren’t like that. Yes, they’re critical of us if we should get a ground ball, and we don’t; or if we should get a bunt down, and we don’t; or if we strike out in a big situation. However, they’re critical of us because they can feel what we’re going through. They love the energy that we bring, regardless, and we love the energy that they bring.


I think it’s tough to play here, and it’s not because we play well at home; it’s because our fans are so good. They’re loud and get on the other team very well. The key to home field advantage is making the other team uncomfortable and making your team feel as comfortable as possible at home. Our fans not only make other teams feel uncomfortable, but I haven’t played at any other park like Pete Taylor Park. It’s something that I will always remember, and is going to be a very tough weekend for me. I’ll get to hear my song a few more times when I come to the plate, hopefully get hit by a couple of more pitches [Coker has been hit by a pitch 18 times this season and needs two more to break the single season record for being hit by a pitch] and sprint to first a couple more times in front of them.


I don’t think that any of us would be who we were without our fans. If you only have 15 people out to watch you, it makes it harder to perform. Whereas we have 3,000 to 4,000 fans come watch us every game, and when that many people love you, it’s easy to go out and perform, especially since we love them just as much. I especially like the guys down the third base line who always get on the opposing teams. I’ve met a million people who have come up to me on the field at the end of our games, and I’ve tried to remember as many names as I can. I know the faces, and know that they’re genuine when they tell us how well we’ve played. It means a lot to us to hear that. We want to win a lot of games, but having people say that they enjoy watching us play is just as special. If this is a farewell speech, I want to say thanks and I love every fan that has ever come to watch us play and supported us.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Lucky Charms (5/10/06)

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)