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 24, 2006

Tourney Time in Houston


We started rolling down to Texas on Monday for the C-USA Tournament after our sweep of UCF over the weekend. Senior Day was good, and winning three games puts us in a great mood heading into the tournament, so we’re riding a high right now. So by this point on our bus trip we’re floating on air until we hit a flat tire 10 minutes outside of Lake Charles, La., which is our dining destination. We were on the side of the road for about 2½ hours waiting to get it fixed, though I didn’t care so much because I was engulfed in a card game in the back of the bus. They had to turn the air conditioner on and off to work on the bus while they worked on it, so it got kind of stuffy in there. It’s a pretty serious thing, fixing a shredded tire on a bus, and you can’t be too careful. So while we waited, still hungry, we had to survive on rice crispy treats and candy while until we started moving again.


After the tire delay, we finally made it at a stop for food. Unfortunately, once we stopped, everything was closed at 10:15 p.m., so we had to bargain with the people to let us walk through the drive-thru at Wendy’s. With all of these things happening, it gave us a weird feeling as to how our conference tournament was starting out. Then Coach Berry came to us and told us that we’re dealing with adversity already, and because of that, we’ll be ready to deal with adversity for the tournament. So we dealt with that, ended up arriving in Houston around 1:30 a.m. and got a good night’s sleep.


The next day we awoke to the best breakfast in the country - downstairs at the Hyatt. It’s so fine. The interesting thing about breakfast yesterday morning was that when we walked in, the waiters told us to sit in the back while Tulane was sitting at the front of the restaurant. So there we were in the same room with all of us under an understood silence. When we walk by them and they walk by us, we don’t say anything to each other and we both look away. There’s definitely no love loss in the breakfast room as there is on the baseball field. It’s actually kind of fun to me; I enjoy that stuff because I’m the kind of guy that once I get in a starting contest I won’t be the first one to break a smile.


It’s neat because all of the team’s are staying in the same hotel except for Houston and Rice, obviously. I do wish that the guys from Houston were in here because there’s a couple of guys that I’ve played against for a few years and I enjoy being around them. You develop friendships with guys from all of the other schools, like Joey Lieberman from Memphis. He came over to our room last night and chatted with us for a little bit while we watched the Braves game. It’s a loose atmosphere around here, and is a lot more laid back then you would think. However, on the field it’s all business. For instance, once Joey comes to the plate as the designated hitter, he’ll give me a tap on the shin guard, I’ll tell him “what’s up?” and then I’ll go out there and try to beat him by 20 runs after that. There’s no feeling like beating your buddies - it’s the best feeling in the world. That’s why we enjoy the wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State, because you have a lot of buddies on those teams. That goes the same with Memphis, so that’s what we’re going to try and do tonight and go get them.


Since then we’ve been able to relax and get our thoughts together the rest of the time before our first game to think about what we have to do tonight against Memphis. There is a bunch of stuff to in downtown Houston like the Underground, where you can walk for miles and look at a lot of shops and other stores. Everyone went their own way yesterday, so I went with (senior closer) Daniel Best and his aunt and uncle. We went to eat last night, and I also got to play a hole of golf which was the finishing hole on the movie Tin Cup. It’s the same hole that in the movie he’s trying to hit the ball over the water, and he keeps asking for another ball until he gets it. Daniel and I both did that yesterday, but I wasn’t successful in my attempts. I only tried twice, and on one I thought I had it, but it stopped just short of the green. Daniel hit a few, and he was crushing balls, but unfortunately the green was narrow so they kept going right and left and was unsuccessful.


It was cool to try that and then we had a dinner in the same clubhouse in the movie that Kevin Costner hit a ball out of to hit a pelican off a perch to win a bet in the movie. Some of the other guys went to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe down the street and some others did some other stuff. There’s a lot to do down here, but at the same time, we did have a curfew and we needed to get back in the room to get our rest. As much fun as this place can be, and as much as it can feel like a vacation, it’s not - it’s a business trip. We need to do what we need to do to win as many games as we can starting with tonight. Our main goal right now is to win tonight, and after that, the sky’s the limit.


Anything can happen in this tournament, as we already witnessed a six seed (East Carolina) defeat a three seed (Tulane) this morning. Seeds only matter with what time you play. Honestly, if I had to pick a seed, I’d rather be a four or five seed, like what we are, because you play the night game on the first game and if you win, you’ll continue to play the late game. We got the lucky draw to play the late game, because the worst thing in the world is to play the early 9 a.m. game. Tulane just finished the 9 a.m. game and lost, and since they lost they have to play the early 9 a.m. game again tomorrow. To me that sucks, and I don’t want any part in that 9 a.m. game, and I definitely don’t want any part in the afternoon game in Houston, Texas where it’s nice and hot out here. The bottom line is that getting this game tonight is an important thing.


There’s no real predictions for this tournament. Even if you go to Las Vegas and ask for the odds, the odds are that everybody is going to say Rice is going to win the tournament. They’re at home, they’ve lost only two conference games this season and the two teams that they’ve lost to (Houston and East Carolina) are in the other side of the bracket, and Rice is undefeated in this side of the bracket (Memphis, Southern Miss and UAB). This doesn’t bother us though because I think we had some success against Rice. We did some things right, made a few mental errors and a few minor mistakes that cost us the series against them. It’s sad to say this, but you almost have to play a flawless game - not meaning no strikeouts and have to get a hit every time - with no errors, no overthrows to the cutoff man against them. You have to play good, fundamental baseball to beat a team like Rice. They don’t sit back and wait on the big-time long ball situations. They do things small and do things right. So that’s the way you beat them by playing their game. That’s one of the toughest things in the world to do, but that game would be tomorrow, and first we have to win this game tonight against Memphis in order to get to that game and Rice has to win too. It’s very crucial to win this first game, and we’re going to go out there and do whatever we need to do to win it.


Kevin Coker


Previous Entries

Kangaroos in the Court, and a Swan Song at the 'Pete' (5/16/06)

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)