John Pigott's Diary: Watching His Son Justin & Miss State in Omaha
Day (1) Wednesday:
And we're off.....
The College World Series...the CWS...sure, like most, I've watched it on TV and always wanted to go. My wife Dot and I said
when the kids left, we would go there, and then to the Little League World Series..and Major League Spring Training....and.....
you know, all those things baseball fans want to do. I always wanted to meet Harold Reynolds, the ESPN commentator.
bad he got canned for allegedly groping a female assistant.
Through it all, never did we dream we would be following a team and a son to the CWS. Much like my predecessor Dr. Riser,
reflect on the path that got you there. My son Justin benefited from playing
in Picayune at a very special time in its baseball
history from Little League all the way through the high school championships. He was fortunate to get great coaching from
Imhoff and Kent Kirkland & the rest of the staff. More on that later.
We are on the road to the CWS....14 more hours and we will be there. The last 24-48 hours have been a mad scramble to get
done so we can leave town. As I write this my son-in-law, Cole Raiford,
is driving, my daughter Alison is
sleeping, and Dot is the co-pilot, along with God, of course.
Yes, we are excited!! We still get goose bumps when Justin goes on the field in his Mississippi State uniform. Can you imagine
what the CWS will be like? Last weekend in Starkville, against Clemson, in front of 13,000 screaming fans was life-changing
experience. I can't imagine what this weekend will be like.
I talked to Justin about an hour ago. He said they practiced at Rosenblatt Stadium today and right now they were eating pizza
somewhere in downtown Omaha. He tried not to sound excited.......I know better.
We are all excited now.....of course we are only two hours out of Picayune. We'll keep you posted. Go Dawgs.
Day (2) Thursday:
Fireworks went off at the College World Series Thursday night!! No, seriously, fireworks really went off….for over 30 minutes.
A fireworks display that capped off a whirlwind day of activities. A fireworks display that rivaled anything the home folks have
seen in New Orleans or Biloxi on the Fourth of July or New Years Eve. The folks at the CWS and in Omaha take great pride
in their fireworks display and they should, it was great. It wrapped up an opening ceremony that was equally impressive.
The Navy Seals parachute team. The Leaping Frogs or whatever they are really called, had eight skydivers land on the field at
Rosenblatt Stadium bearing team banners representing each team to open the evening, Quite impressive.
After the U. S. Navy did their thing, the NCAA presented academic awards for highest GPA to each team. Mississippi State
was tops in all the schools represented here at the CWS. Jet Butler, freshman short stop, was recognized for the highest team
GPA with a overall 4.0. (For the record, that's a waste, I graduated with a lot less). Kudos to a D-1 NCAA baseball team
with a 3.18 GPA; not bad for all the demands they have on their time.
Prior to the academic recognition, each team was announced as they entered at the left field foul pole and walked the warning
track to center field and then walked from center field to seats aligned on each base line originating at home plate. In a quite
touching moment, the Bluffton University baseball team was recognized. You may remember them from the tragic bus wreck in
Atlanta when five of their team members were killed and twenty plus injured at the beginning of this season. They went on to
field a team to complete an abbreviated season.
Earlier in the day, thousands of baseball fans turned out for Fan Fest. Lots of booths and tents filled with activities for young
adults. Tent after tent filled with souvenirs. I bought three t-shirts myself. Mitch Moreland, State's OF/IF/P, said it felt like
he signed over 4,000 autographs; for Justin it was more like 1,000 as all the teams were set up at tables for autographs for
adoring fans. One young man, approximately 10 years old, had shaved his head and had players sign his head with a Sharpie.
His mother said he wasn't going to wash it for at least two weeks.
Today was CWS eve. Tomorrow, the games begin!. Justin will be starting the 6:00 PM game against the ACC powerhouse
North Carolina Tar Heels. Conventional wisdom says to start Justin as they could have as many as five lefthanders in their batting
order. Personally, I think it would be great to see a College World Series game in person before you pitch in one. Of course, that's
a nervous dad speaking. We all know Justin will go out and battle hard. Coach Polk has been making all the right moves lately so
lets go with him. Justin did say he had a good bullpen this week.
Well, its been a long day and a lot of miles have been covered since we left Picayune Wednesday night at 7:30 PM. Keep
# 6 and the Bulldogs in your prayers. He will be on the biggest stage he has ever been on Friday evening. Justin is up to the
challenge, probably better than his parents are. The Bulldogs are decided underdogs by most of the press. They just have to
go out and prove the press wrong again. God Bless!!! ……I will update you after tomorrow's game.
Day (3) Friday:
Game day vs North Carolina ....
Final Score: North Carolina 8, Mississippi State 5. Good night, I am going to bed………..I wish it was that easy.
It's not, and while it's not the end of the world, it may feel like it. However, when you realize you are at the College World
Series in Omaha, Nebraska, you realize it really hasn't been a bad day. As I often say, if this is the worst thing that happens
this year, it's been a great year. …and it has been.
Everett Kennard the legendary MSU bus driver put the day's events in a neat package. After the game, while waiting for
the players, he said he would take Justin on his team anytime. He was proud of him and how hard he worked ( that made
Mom and Dad feel better ). Secondly, he is of the mind that you have to come to Omaha and play in a game to be really
ready to win a game or series. He is encouraged about the fact that MSU is young and getting great experience. He said
our first visit to Rosenblatt this week that our guys got off the bus looking around, taking pictures, and were the new kids
on the block, North Carolina, on the other hand, got of the bus thinking of the game only. They got most of their pictures
last year. Not that our guys weren't ready, but it was their first visit. North Carolina has been a frequent visitor. Everett
feels this team will be back better and stronger if not next game, next year. Anybody that knows MSU baseball, knows
Everett…and respects his opinion. Thanks Everett!
Personally speaking, Justin was glad to be at the CWS, but hates to lose. Justin will wear the loss for a day or so... maybe
less and will be back tomorrow in his unofficial team leader role. He has pitched better & lost and pitched worse &
won. It is a team effort. As a pitcher (and his parents ), you have to remember that. Pitchers get the glory when it is
deserved and sometimes when it is not. They also get to wear the loss by their name, once again whether it is deserved
or not. I know Justin would have liked a better performance tonight, but he did a good job and kept MSU in the game.
We dodged a few bullets, missed a few breaks and maybe we didn't make a play or two that could have preserved the lead.
The team played hard and did not prevail. All you can do is take the great Ron Polk's words of wisdom, "That's Baseball"
New game on Sunday. Saturday is not exactly an off day for Justin. It begins at 8:00 AM when Justin and Aaron Weatherford
will speak to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast. Saturday will include a team practice and some type of community
work project/visit for the team. It's not all about baseball. That's what we mean we say we are pound of the team for what
they do off the field a well as on.
Thanks to all the supporters in Picayune and Pearl River county. We heard a lot of you had small gatherings to watch
the game Friday night. Your support means a lot to Justin. The journey continues as MSU's quest will continue on Sunday.
Hey, don't write us off yet. Last years' Champs, Oregon State, lost their first game of the tournament and came back to
win it all. Good night and God Bless!! It's 12:25 AM Friday (or should I say Saturday morning ?)
Day (4) Saturday:
The one you didn't get!
Today was an off day for the team. Well, other than a morning FCA breakfast at 8:00 AM for Justin, Ricky Bowen and
Aaron Weatherford, followed up with a 90 minute practice at Creighton University's field from 12:00 to 1:30 and then a
luncheon with the Optimist Club from 3:00 until 5:00, it was a day off. So much for free time. I understand Chad Crosswhite
was quite entertaining in his introductions of his fellow players and managers at the Optimist Club luncheon.
I think the general consensus of the team is to stay loose and be ready to play ball on Sunday. No one is ready to go home.
The Pigott family managed to catch up on some must needed rest. After lunch in the Old Market area, it was off to the Omaha
zoo to visit some of my relatives. Omaha has a world class zoo coupled with a great aquarium. I see why a number of locals
advised us to visit. What made it even nicer was a number of the exhibit areas were inside, which kept us out of the 93 degree
heat. Someone said the heat is dryer and not as bad as south Mississippi. Yeah right!! Hot is Hot…and it was Hot.
The weatherman predicts more of the same for the game tomorrow. With a 1:00 PM start, let's hope our guys are well hydrated.
We were able to take Justin out this evening for a good Omaha steak. That's one of the things you have to do while at the CWS.
Another is get milkshake from Zestos next to Rosenblatt Stadium. That's on our list for tomorrow…along with a victory for the
Day (5) Sunday:
MSU vs. Louisville......It's do or die day for MSU!
We were excited and really had high hopes for the Bulldogs to compete well against a good Louisville team. In talking to
Mike Easley ( Ed's dad ) prior to the game, we had similar fears. Louisville has been hitting the ball extremely well! They had
a big lead against a good Rice team and let the game get by them the day before. They obviously play aggressive ball much like
our Mississippi neighbors to the north. We knew as we caught the shuttle from the hotel to Rosenblatt that we had a challenge
in store to get a victory.
Dot, Lauren, Alison, Cole and I went to Rosenblatt about two hours prior to the game to do some more souvenir shopping,
get that Zestos milkshake and visit with the Three Amigos from Picayune: Carey, Caleb and Jason. Those guys have definitely
covered some ground in Omaha...sometimes more than they intended considering their sense of direction ( or lack thereof ).
Their excitement about the whole event always helped calm our nerves. I think most parents operate on a different wavelength
on game day than the average fan. Dot and I were much more relaxed today than the day Justin pitched but were nervous for
the team and for the Crosswhites. Allen and Jane Crosswhite were going through the same pre-game jitters we faced and we
totally understand. I think there is a special place in heaven for the parents of pitchers. As I stated earlier, pitchers, although
they are just one of nine on the nine on the field, tend to get more of the glory or the blame because of the position they play.
TO THE GAME.....
Upon meeting the three Amigos and David Hobgood at Zestos, we made our way over to Rosenblatt for what turned out to
be our last visit. The crowd filled the stadium with few empty seats left. Great crowd, great seats, HOT as usual and a gusting
wind to the outfield....at least 20-25 mph to left center field. Louisville came out swinging and the rest is history. The Cardinals
hit the ball well as we feared. Chad did a good job but if a pitch missed a little at all, they jumped all over it. Even after the fast
start, we felt the Bulldogs could come back. After we scored three runs, our spirits were picking up but they came right back
and got the three back. As you know, we never were able to recover and Louisville ended our CWS experience.
If you enjoy baseball, college baseball is the best. If you want to see college baseball at its best watch the College World Series.
If you want to feel, see and taste the best of College Baseball, go to Omaha!! ...with or without a team, it is a great experience.
The people of Omaha totally embrace the CWS. In fact, a lot of them are fans in the stands...every year. We met some really
great people who have been there almost every year. Our experience as parents was truly a blessing. While we would have much
preferred to still be there with the Bulldogs fighting for a championship, the fact is, we are thrilled we had the opportunity to attend.
Dot and I were blessed to have all our children there to support the team and Justin, and we had some quality time together. We
are very proud of Justin and his efforts, both on and off the field. Never, in our wildest dreams when he started playing PYAA ball
did we envision his playing college ball much less having the chance to pitch in a College World Series. We have always taught him
that you had to get better to advance and he has had a lot of help. Justin had the benefit of being involved in Picayune baseball at
a very special time.....with a special group of young men who learned the basics of baseball from some very dedicated coaches...
to start with Rick Imhoff, big John Dobson, Bob Ford, etc......I won't try to name them all but that's a beginning.
Follow that up with Coach Kent Kirkland's management and discipline at the high school level and the ground work was laid.
Another Dobson, little John, and current head coach Cayne Stockstill, played a big part during the high school years as well.
Justin learned a lot about teamwork, hard work and relationships from the high school teams he played on. Those teams had a
chemistry that coaches pray for.
Not Over Yet!!
Justin will be away from baseball for the summer completing a summer co-op semester in his Golf and Sports Turf major.
This year it will be at the Country Club of Birmingham. He hopes to come home this week for a few days before he reports to
the 60 hour a week job up there. For the record, he hasn't been home since January because of the demands of college baseball.
He will be back at MSU for his last season of baseball next year. What happens regarding baseball after that, who knows? I have
always told him after his high school career, if it had ended then...he has great memories...everything else is lagniappe. Who knows,
we could all be back in Omaha next year. Wouldn't that be great? I truly believe the axiom that " you have to see one before you
can win one" is true. Well, now we have seen one so....let's go win one!
In closing: Why does it take longer to get home than get somewhere?? Is the road longer??? We left Omaha about 8:20 AM
Monday morning and rolled into Picayune at 1:12 AM this morning ( Tuesday ). I admit, we did stop a few more times...ate a
few more meals.....so maybe we didn't quite feel the rush of the trip north. Would we go again...yes..in a minute. I truly hope
that other young men and their parents get to share in the same experience as we had in Omaha. Dr. Riser has been there and
he tried to prepare me for the experience. It is indeed overwhelming. Yes, tears were shed along the way with laughter and joy.
What a trip!
Special Thanks to Carey Meitzler for sharing our trip with the folks on maroontide.com and being such a great supporter.
Of course, thanks to my children for being there, Marilyn (Jason's wife) for giving him a pass to go, and my wife for making
such good babies. Thank you to all the people who have supported Justin this year and kept him in your prayers. God Bless!