Black and gold are perfect colors for Thomas Stevens.
Prior to Wednesday, the colors were solely dedicated to the New Hope High School uniforms Stevens wore as a member of the school’s football and baseball teams.
On Wednesday, though, the black and gold in the bow tie Stevens wore to school signaled a nod to the next step in his baseball career at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville.
Even though Stevens couldn’t convince teammate Parker Lane, who signed with Mississippi Delta C.C. in Moorhead, to wear a bow tie or attend NEMCC with him, both players said they found the right fit.
“It is a wait off my shoulders,” Stevens said. “I have been waiting to do it pretty much my whole life and get to the next level.”
Stevens said he has a couple of bow tie, but he picked the one he wore because the black and gold in it matched the colors of New Hope High and NEMCC. There also was a little bit of blue and brown in the tie Stevens said his mother bought at Belk.
Stevens admitted he tried to convince Lane to wear a bow tie, but he said he didn’t think Lane is a bow tie kind of guy, even though he said he has seen Lane wear a bow tie recently, possibly to a school dance. On Wednesday, though, Stevens was the only one with a bow tie, but he wasn’t the only one to realize a dream that has been years in the making.
“It’s a mixture of a lot of emotions,” Stevens said. “I am nervous about going to college, but I am ready for it.”
Stevens led New Hope (20-12) in batting average (.381), hits (37), RBIs (29), and home runs (seven) last season. He also was second on the team with 12 doubles and third in runs (24).
Lane hit .352 after being called up to the varsity team. He had 19 hits, 12 RBIs, four doubles, and one home run. He also appeared in two games as a pitcher.
New Hope coach Lee Boyd said Stevens and Lane have great work ethics and are regulars at the team’s indoor facility, where they work on hitting and other fundamentals, sometimes with each other.
“Thomas led the state in home runs for an underclassmen,” Boyd said. “He has a little versatility. He can play catcher and in the outfield. In junior college, where they play four to six games a week, he can play catcher and in the outfield, so I think that was attractive to colleges.
“I call Parker a dirt-bagger. He is one of those tough guys who plays third base. It is not always pretty, but he is going to get in front of the baseball and give you his best effort. Parker has the ability to swing the bat with a little pop, too.”
Boyd said Lane always has been a dirt-bagger. He said Lane was “rusty” prior to the spring after having Tommy John surgery. He said it took until about the middle of the season when Lane found his swing. He then went from junior varsity games to hitting cleanup for the varsity team.
“He went to some showcases and did really well and had a little interest,” Boyd said. “I think Parker had offers from Northeast and Delta and decided to go to Delta. Thomas had nine or 10 offers. I didn’t know what Thomas was going to do and then Northeast came in. I think Northeast is going to be a good fit for him.”
Stevens said the coaches at NEMCC have talked to him about playing catcher and outfield. He said being away from home for an extended period of time for the first time in his life will be a big adjustment, but he is confident he will be able to make the transition.
“I am just going to play like I have been and not worry or think about it and go with the flow and see where it takes me,” Stevens said.
Lane also feels picking a school in the early signing period will help take away the pressure and allow him to have a great senior season. He said he visited Mississippi Delta C.C. about a month ago and liked the coaching staff and the campus. He said it helps that his older brother, Payton, is playing baseball at Mississippi Delta C.C. along with Will Godfrey and Tyler Jones, two other former New Hope High products.
Parker Lane said he talked with all three and came away thinking Mississippi Delta C.C. would be a good fit for him because he said “it is all baseball” and that it is fun at the school.
Being “all about baseball” is a great way to describe Stevens and Lane. Boyd said both players are among the hardest workers on the team. Lane is excited to join a program where he feels the coaches will push everyone hard to be their best.
“I feel they are going to be working just as hard as I usually do on my own, so it will be a good fit,” said Lane, who envisions playing third base and in the outfield.
Lane said he gave a verbal commitment to Mississippi Delta C.C. coach Dan Rives two to three weeks ago. He said he felt anxious prior to the signing, but he said he is relieved to have the decision made and to have signed the National Letter of Intent.
“It is like a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Lane said.
More importantly, both players appeared to find schools where their work ethics will help them shine. Boyd said those matching skills are primary reasons why Stevens and Lane realized their dreams.
For the players, it was fitting to share their signing day because they have spent countless hours working together, with other teammates, or by themselves at New Hope High’s indoor facility so they could earn a chance to play at the next level.
“Thomas puts the time and work in,” Lane said. “He can flat out hit a baseball. He is made to play the game.
“If I am going to be as good as Thomas, is I feel I have to work a little bit harder than he does. But don’t get me wrong. Thomas is a hard worker, and it shows. I am going to work that hard at Mississippi Delta to become that kind of player.”
Said Stevens, “Parker works really hard. He hits every night and throws and works in the weight room. Parker and I are probably the two hardest workers on the team. We hit, throw, and do a lot of extra stuff.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.