It is no secret to anyone that has taken a step on the hollowed Ole Miss campus that No. 18 holds a special meaning around here. Quarterback Archie Manning donned the number during his illustrious years on the gridiron and is indubitably the face and soul of the campus. The number is retired, never to be worn again by a football player, it is the speed limit across campus and everyday usages of the numeral has become synonymous with the Rebel Great.
Today, 18 has another meaning. It is the number of days until the Rebel baseball team takes the field for their opener against William & Mary on Feb. 13. With that in mind, we will commence our daily countdown of the 18 most important baseball players to the team’s success in 2015.
Please note two things: these rankings are an opinion of where they stand today not what they may be at the end of the year, and most importantly, it takes far more than 18 players to field a successful baseball team but “35 Most Important Diamond Rebels” doesn’t have the same ring to it. We will release a different player each day in ascending order, starting with freshman Kyle Watson.
Watson is a 6’3″, 187 Lb. righty out of Southaven. The DeSoto Central graduate played middle infield in high school and should figure in there at Ole Miss as well. In his career as a Jaguar, Watson hit .345 with 29 extra-base hits, 80 RBI, 100 runs scored and a .940 fielding percentage.
Ole Miss has an incumbent at both shortstop (Errol Robinson) and third base (Colby Bortles) that each figure to get a majority of the timeshare at their respective positions. Fellow freshman Tate Blackman also appears entrenched at second base, leaving Watson as an odd-man-out in the infield. Not all is lost for Watson, however.
Due to his immense versatility in the field, Watson shoulder provide tremendous depth for head coach Mike Bianco. If Robinson or Blackman need a day off or fall victim to the injury bug, or Bortles needs to take a day of designated hitter duty, the freshman should be able to fill right in. He also could see time in the outfield as the Rebels only have a four outfielders on the roster.
He has already made quite the name for himself during fall baseball. Watson has hit a couple of home runs in the scrimmages, has shown a knack for getting on base, and has wowed onlookers with his tremendous play in the field.
The baseball season is long and grueling, and having a jack-of-all-trades like Watson is a vital asset. He is a quality baserunner and remarkable in the field. Having someone like him waiting in the wings when those in front of him need a spell, could provide dividends especially at the end of the year.
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.