OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way. To use an oft quoted line from a local dentist who competed on The Amazing Race, “Dagnabbit!”
Certainly, this is not the way the Southern Miss baseball team wanted to end a storybook postseason – with two consecutive losses and eventual elimination from the College World Series. But, man alive, getting to Omaha was sure fun.
I would’ve been in attendance for the C-USA baseball tournament held in Hattiesburg last month. However, a previously scheduled family gathering in Huntsville prevented such. So, I followed the Eagles online and was bummed to learn the Eagles lost in the championship game. Thankfully, an invite to the Atlanta regional came.
And what a way to win in said Atlanta regional. Then, it was on to a seemingly improbable super-regional sweep in Gainesville against Florida. Final stop: Omaha’s historic Rosenblatt Stadium, which, regrettably, will be no more soon to make way for a modern facility.
Part of what made the Eagles’ postseason intriguing was the retirement of Corky Palmer, the head coach. When he was named to succeed Hill Denson, the WDAM-TV morning show, which I produced at the time, was the first broadcast to have a live, in-depth interview with Coach Palmer. During that interview and in the weeks and months that followed, I have to admit there was one thought I couldn’t get out of my head. Gosh, this guy’s got a tough act to follow.
Instead of filling someone else’s shoes, Corky Palmer made a pair of his own. In 12 seasons, he compiled a record of 458-281. As demonstrated these recent weeks, he lead the baseball Eagles to previously uncharted territory. It’s definitely something to build on for Coach Palmer’s successor, Scott Berry.
To Coach Palmer, thanks for a great ride – and best of luck as you take on new responsibility at Southern Miss Athletics. To Coach Berry, I’m sure you’ll hear the “tough act to follow” lines – but may you succeed in making a pair of shoes for your own. May you successfully lead the Eagles to another path to Omaha.
Finally, to the players – especially the departing seniors – you’ve already proven you’re winners in the game of baseball. May you go on to be winners in the game of life.