STARKVILLE — Mississippi State was supposed to begin fall baseball practice Friday.
The mounds of dirt and the absence of sod at Dudy Noble Field altered those plans.
As of Thursday, the work to cover the new and improved drainage and irrigation system at the home field of the Bulldogs hadn”t been completed.
MSU baseball coach John Cohen decided to postpone the start of practice one week so the dirt work can be finished and sod can be laid down. That part of the process was to start Fridaay and be finished this past weekend.
“It”s not as far away as it looks with the naked eye,” Cohen said. “There are only another couple of steps in the process. If we push everything back one week, then hopefully we”ll be able to get into our facility. I think the wait will be worth it.”
In the meantime, Cohen is willing to use the Palmeiro Center and the practice infield next door to continue individual and offseason workouts until Dudy Noble is ready.
“I don”t know of anyone in the South who has practiced the last 14 to 15 days (because of rain),” Cohen said. “Being able to be in the Palmeiro has been amazing for our players.”
There”s only five weeks this fall to get 22 newcomers (14 true freshmen, one redshirt freshman and seven junior college transfers) on the roster familiar with the system so Cohen is anxious to start.
There are veterans like senior first baseman Connor Powers and senior pitchers Tyler Whitney and Greg Houston who can help in that regard.
“When you talk about signal systems and communication and the way we do things, it”s a tall task,” Cohen said. “The thing we have going for us this year that we didn”t have last year is we have kids who understand what we”re trying to do who help us teach. Last year, we were trying to teach everybody.”
Powers (19 home runs, 63 RBIs last season) turned down an offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers this summer to return for his senior year.
Cohen values his leadership and not just offensively.
In 54 games last season, Powers only made one error at first base.
“I don”t know how many people actually see this, but the strength of Conner is he is such a good defensive first baseman and he really understands defense,” Cohen said. “He communicates well and is a great mentor to some of our guys.
“Obviously, he”s going to hit, but I think having a guy who can really anchor down your infield will be important because there are going to be a lot of new faces there, too.”