Russell & Jill Lee: Watching Their Son Braxton
& Ole Miss in Omaha at the College World Series
by Carey Meitzler
When Errol Robinson fielded a grounder and tossed it to Sikes Orvis for the third
out in bottom of the 9th in Game 3 of the Super Regional against ULL, the Ole
Miss Rebels baseball team charged onto Tigue Moore Field in Lafayette, LA,
celebrating a long awaited return to Omaha, or as it has been called all week,
“Olemaha”. One of those Rebels involved in the Rebel dogpile is a scrappy,
very fast, left fielder from our hometown of Picayune named Braxton Lee.
His parents are Russell and Jill Lee, and we will follow their trip to “Olemaha” to
watch Braxton and the Rebels.
Monday night in Lafayette
When the players rushed the field after Game 3 at ULL, what went through your mind?
“The excitement of it all…you know, it’s just something you dream of,” said
Russell. Jill, while excited, had a slightly different thought.
“I was excited too, but I was thinking of all the things we had to do to get
ready to go to Omaha,” she laughed when sharing her thoughts.
Getting ready to go (Tues-Wed-Thurs)
With just a few days to prepare for the trip, Jill was overwhelmed when
they returned to Picayune.
“It took me two days to respond to all the social media for all the
congratulations. Since we got home (from Lafayette), the community
support has been unbelievable. The cards, people dropping by the house,
phone calls. I have never been so weepy in all my life as I have been this
week with how wonderful people have been. It was simply amazing the way
our community has been all over it this week.”
Have you talked with Braxton this week?
“Not really. When they got back, they only had one day to get ready
before they had to go to Omaha,” stated Jill.
“We’ve been just trying to get our ducks in a row, figuring how long
we could stay, getting everything prepared as best we can. Just a
lot of things,” Russell explained.
The Journey Up
“We broke the trip up by going to Oxford and spending the night on
Friday. That put five (5) hours behind us starting the next day, which
looking back, was a good thing,” Russell explained.
“We picked up Carly (Braxton’s girlfriend) in Oxford on Saturday
morning. We had a real good trip getting to spend some time visiting
with her and cutting up, getting to know her better while the boys
watched movies in the van. It was a really good time,” Jill said.
Trenton, Carly, and Peyton on the way to Omaha
Jill, Peyton, and Russell on the way to Omaha.
Baseball players are superstitious people by nature. At times it rubs
off on the parents in some shape, form, or fashion. Jill explained.
“One thing that was kind of neat was when we were driving yesterday
(Saturday), we were getting hungry and were trying to decide when
and where to eat, and out of nowhere an exit sign pops up…
Sikeston (similar to first baseman Sikes Orvis name). We were
thinking…what are the odds of that? So we stopped in Sikeston,
Missouri to eat.”
Sikeston was a good stop for the Ole Miss crew
They had planned to spend Saturday night somewhere in the vicinity
of Kansas City, but those plans changed when they got to KC and
could not find a place to stay, so they kept heading toward Omaha,
excuse me, “Olemaha” and stayed in St Joseph, Missouri.
Passing by the Kansas City Royals park on the interstate
Sunday morning left about three (3) hours to reach their destination
and they were amazed at the number of Mississippi license plates as
they traveled up the Interstate 29.
“ It was very neat seeing all the Ole Miss people traveling this way.
Jill said to me ‘how do you know they are going to Omaha?’ I said,
how many people from Mississippi would come this way for a vacation?
They all go to Florida or somewhere like that…of course they are
going to Omaha! Why else would they be coming this way”, Russell
said with a laugh.
Crossing the state line into Nebraska
Corn fields line the last two hours leading into the Omaha area.
Jill thought that was really neat. “Whoever saw each other first, we’d blow the horn
and wave…it was so many Mississippi people. We just keep seeing so many. I think
people will be amazed at how many Ole Miss fans are going to be in Omaha.”
How does it feel right now, a couple of hours from game time for
Game 1 vs Virginia?
“It’s exciting and I always get nervous until after that first pitch to Braxton.
Actually, more like once his first at-bat is over,” Jill stated.
“Am I nervous? Yeah, a little, but it is kind of like being a coach. You’ve
done all you can do, and now it’s just up to the boys to go out and play
the game. Is Braxton nervous? I think he is until that first pitch, and then
he is fine.”
Last year, if someone told you that you would be in Omaha watching
Braxton play in the College World Series, what would have been your reaction?
“I would have said that would be what we would hope for. You know it’s
been a great year for us, but it has been a tough year for Braxton with all they,
I mean the boys, have had to do to get here. But it has been a great journey”,
Tomorrow we will find out how Game 1 was for Russell and Jill. And the Rebels.
Sunday evening: Game 1 vs Virginia
Ole Miss and Virginia would be the last two teams to play their first game with a
7:00pm game at TD Ameritrade Stadium.
"We got a little later start than we had hoped for on our way to the stadium, but
once we got there, everything seemed ok. Parking was easy and we found a good
spot. We started walking to the stadium to find the place to pick up our tickets and
and we felt a little rushed. As we walked, we were seeing all the vendors and the
shops, but we didn't have time to stop right then because we were in a hurry ", Jill said.
"When we finally got there (stadium), you just look at it and realize what a really,
pretty ballpark it is. There's the excitement of being there and knowing this is every
kid's dream to play here, and we are here watching one of our kids play," Russell
Next a small inconvenience came up as they were getting ready to enter the stadium.
"I had my camera bag with my good camera and extra lens. When we get to the
gate to enter the stadium, the people at the gate asked to look inside my bag. I had
a 300mm lens on my camera, nothing super powerful or anything, but they had a
measuring stick and my lens was too big. So, Russell had to take the bag and go
all the way back to the parking lot and put the bag back into the van. So while he
was taking care of that, the rest of us went on in and found our seats."
Their seats are always with the other Ole Miss parents and family, so it was like old
times. The seats were located between home plate and first base and were under
the overhang of the upper deck.
Jill and Carly on the next to last row. Errol Robinson's parents two rows in front of them.
Jill and Russell just after Russell returned from the parking lot..
"When we see each other, we are always greeting each other with hugs and just glad to
see everyone. So we got in our seats, I took a few pictures with my phone camera
and just taking in the excitement of being here for the game. Mrs. Bortles (Colby's
mom) was handing out red pom poms. Everyone was just excited about the game.
I mean, to a certain extent, it was just another game that we had to win. It just
didn't sink in at that moment where we were and what was happening. "
With Ole Miss the visitor in the game, Braxton would be the first batter of the game.
"Of course, I was nervous, but I think my nervousness kept me from being emotional
about the moment. So, after he batted, I was fine," Jill stated.
Braxton's picture on the jumbo tron just prior to the first pitch
During the game, the Ole Miss faithful were exposed to age old College
World Series traditions.
"Beach balls! All the locals were passing them around and having a good time.
Then they would start the wave and do it real slow. Then, the next time
around, a little faster. Then faster and faster. It was a lot of fun. As for the
game, it was a quiet game (offensively). Both pitchers were great. There
at the end when we tied the game, I just knew we were going to extra
innings and just knew we would strike out the last batter (Mike Papi), but
then he hit the double and we lost."
Virginia won 2-1 and the loss pushes Ole Miss into an elimination game
against Texas Tech on Tuesday at 2:00pm.
Both Russell and Jill shared similar thoughts after the game.
"We just have to re-group. They just need to do what they need to do.
We (Ole Miss) hit balls right at Virginia and they hit balls that found the
gaps. That's baseball," said Russell. Jill does not like to hear 'that's baseball'
when her team loses.
"It was sort of quiet walking out with our crowd, but no one was negative.
Everyone was upbeat," Jill said. "We had a chance to see Braxton back
at his hotel and the players all seemed to be positive. It was kind of like
last week at Lafayette. We lost the first one and now we know what we
have to do. They seem relaxed and confident they can come back."
Trenton, Braxton, Russell, and Peyton after the game at Braxton's hotel after the game.
Monday...Off Day..No Game
The team had practice in the morning and then met up with the families at the Omaha
Zoo for around 12:45pm.
"It was a great time. All the players' families were there as a group, but everyone
was able to do their own thing with their family. We had a lot of fun. The zoo is
located right next to where Rosenblatt Stadium used to be. In fact, they have markers
and lines in the parking lot showing where the bases and home plate used to be located.
That was pretty neat."
The crew (minus Jill taking the photo) at the zoo.
Replica marking where historic Rosenblatt Stadium stood
Below is an aerial view
After the zoo, Braxton was able to come back to the campground where the family is
"We had a great time. We grilled hamburgers, the boys played putt putt golf, and they
had races on these crazy bikes here at the campground. It was so much fun spending the
whole day outside," Jill shared.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Rebels play at 2:00pm against Texas Tech in an elimination
"Since we didn't get a chance to see all the vendors and stores last night since we were
rushed, we plan to go over about two (2) hours before the game tomorrow and walk
through and see all of the things available," Jill stated.
Bike racing at the campground
Tuesday...Game 2 vs Texas Tech
As mentioned above (yesterday), the Lee crew was poised to get to the stadium early
and check out the vendors and stores before the game. They did get there early, but
the Omaha afternoon heat had other ideas.
Peyton, Jill, Russell, and Trenton just outside TD Ameritrade Stadium
"We got there and walked around a little and quickly changed our plans. It was so HOT!
After a little bit of looking around, we all agreed to get in the stadium, get lots of water,
and sit down in the shade, " Jill explained.
So I asked Russell and Jill what they were thinking before the game?
"I was thinking I was HOT!, " Jill laughed.
"We needed to come out and play better than we did the other day (Sunday vs Virginia)
and get more hits, and we didn't, " said Russell.
"I was thinking I didn't want to drive five bajillion miles to get here and play two (2)
games and go home. I wasn't down for that," Jill shared.
Ole Miss prevailed 2-1 with a walk-off single by senior John Gatlin in the bottom
of the ninth. The Rebels were leading 1-0 in the top of the inning and Texas Tech
tied it up.
"It was good to win, but we were in a similar situation like Sunday with a base open
and I'm thinking we are going to walk him and setup the double play and we don't
have to bat in the bottom of the ninth. But we didn't', and they eventually get the hit to
tie it. It worked out for us (winning), but I was thinking here we go again. Hopefully
the hits will start coming in bunches," Russell stated.
Braxton batting to start the bottom of the first vs Texas Tech
In the bottom of the sixth Braxton came up to bat with one out. Remember the decision
to stop at Sikeston? Superstitious baseball people? Jill went to her bag of baseball tricks
to help Braxton.
"My son is coming up to bat and he hadn't had a hit in I don't know how many games.
So I leaned over and told Russell I was going to do an Aunt Irma and he looked at me like
'what?'. He didn't remember the story. Everyone around me was sitting down. I got
up, I spun around in a circle, and sat back down. I was thinking to myself, this boy has
got to get a break. I was willing to try anything and all I could think about was that story.
Then he gets a hit and I said I can't wait to tell Carey about this!" Jill explained, laughing
the whole time.
Background on the 'Aunt Irma' is here on this link. Cudos to Dr Ludwick Lohnes.
Jill says "thanks Doc!".
Jill shared something she saw on Twitter today after the game about Holt Perdzock.
Remember that Holt had a clutch triple in Game 3 vs ULL in the Super Regional,
drove in the lone Ole Miss run on Sunday, and tonight drove in the Rebels' first run.
All three of these at bats came as a pinch-hitter, which is one of the hardest things to
do in baseball.
"Someone wrote 'I am not saying Holt Perdzock is Superman, but I will say that I have
yet to see Holt and Superman in the same room at the same time," Jill laughed.
So what is the most unexpected thing you have observed in Omaha since you arrived?
"We only have six (6) hits in two (2) games. It is so un-Ole Miss like. Coming up here
I was thinking if we can score 4-5, maybe 6 runs per game, with our pitching, we don't
lose a game. We've just got to get the hits going and I think we will on Thursday."
"How hot it is during the day here. I figured coming this far north, it would be cooler,"
Russell added, "One thing that is so amazing to me is the number of people up here from
so many teams that aren't here. These fans are walking around with the team names
and logos on their clothes and they walked up to you and say 'I'm pulling for Ole Miss'.
It's really a neat thing."
Tomorrow is an off day with the Rebels next game coming on Thursday against the loser
of Virginia and TCU which is right now is tied in the 12th inning on ESPN.
Update: Virginia won the game 3-2 in 15 innings.
Peyton and Trenton happy to have those good seats to take it all in at the CWS
Wednesday...Off Day..No Game
As we check in with Russell and Jill Lee, they have an off day at the CWS.
Russell and his cousin Bo McClendon decided to play some gold and went to
the beautiful Quarry Oaks in nearby Ashland, NE.
Jill (below) took the opportunity to squeeze in a nap and get caught up on laundry
from the first four days in Omaha. Ok, that's not Jill. But no one was around
to take a picture, so when she described how she felt, the photo was very close.
Tomorrow (Thursday), the Rebels take on TCU at 7:00pm on ESPN2.
Thursday.. Game 3 vs TCU
The Rebels once again faced another elimination game against TCU at 7:00pm
The Lee crew enjoyed their last day at the campground leading up to the game.
Their reservation at the campground comes to an end noon Friday.
"We enjoyed our last day at the campground. We played putt putt golf, horse
shoes, just really enjoyed the outside, " stated Jill.
As for the game, the Ole Miss bats came alive and the Rebels held off
TCU by a score of 6-4 to earn a chance to play Virginia again on Friday.
"When we got to stadium, we ran into the Lewis family from Carriere.
Their son Dusty lives in Omaha and they are moving their daughter up
here. It worked out well for them and their schedule and so they came
to the game. It was good to visit with them," said Jill.
Any surprises or anything out of the ordinary before the game?
"Nothing really. I was hoping we would come out swinging. When Braxton
swung at the first pitch of the game, I was thinking that was a good sign that
we were coming out aggressive," Russell stated.
"I told you all we were going to start hitting the longer we played. Go back
and listen to the tape from Tuesday. I knew it was coming, " Jill laughed
as she reminded Russell and me of her prediction.
"It was so much more exciting today because when we started hitting, the
crowd really got into it. Plus, with the back and forth in scoring, it was a
little stressful," Jill stated.
"We found out just before the game that Will (Allen) was going to DH and
Austin (Knight) was going to catch. We didn't know exactly why. I was
thinking maybe they just wanted to rest him since we probably would be
playing three (3) days in a row. I found out later on Twitter about Will's
shoulder being sore. Austin was amazing," said Jill.
"We saw Braxton after the game at the hotel knowing we wouldn't see him
tomorrow (Friday) since it is a game day. Everybody was excited, a lot
of hollering and clapping as players walked by. It was fun and everyone is
looking forward to the Virginia game," Jill shared.
"We have to move to another place since our reservation is over here. We
aren't worried about finding a place to stay,", Jill explained.
"We've just got to hit. Do the fundamentals and quit walking people. Walks
kill you at every level of baseball. No matter who is pitching, we just need
to throw strikes, " Russell said about the next game.
Russell, Carly, and Peyton ready for the Ole Miss vs TCU game
Friday.. Game 4 vs Virginia
The Rebels once again faced Virginia. In the second inning the
skys opened up for what turned out to be 5 inches of rain. The
will resume on Saturday at 2:00pm.
"It was the worst rain I've ever witnessed in a short period of time.
Fortunately, we were sitting under the upper deck overhang and
were shielded. But, it was amazing how fast it came down and
flooded the field. We just stay in our seats and waited til it stopped
so we could get out of the stadium, " Jill explained.
Saturday.. Game 4 vs Virginia (resumed on Saturday at 2:00pm)
Ole Miss' magical run came to an end as Virginia rallied from a 1-0
deficit to defeat the Rebels 4-1.
"I really thought we were going to win. We had that inning (3rd)
where Braxton had walked, the passed ball put runners in scoring
position, and then you're thinking Bousfield's going to get a hit.
But they (Virginia) make a good pitch to get him out and then
Will (Allen) hits a rocket right at the third baseman and we don't
score any runs, " Russell stated. "Then Virginia comes back an
inning later and gets three runs and we just never could get it
going. We walked a few batters and you can't do that against
good team. The tale of the game is they out hit us."
Waking up this morning (Sunday) and knowing the season is over,
how did you feel?
"Well, we would have loved to still be playing, but at the same time,
once we lost, you're ready to come home, " said Russell.
"You know, I could have got real sad yesterday, but knowing that
for Braxton, it's not over. He's got more baseball ahead for him.
Ole Miss was so wonderful to the Lee family. When Braxton signed,
they told us what they would do for him and they did it. I mean, he
got to play to the point of being on one of the last four teams left playing.
They told us when he signed that all they needed Braxton to do
was to hit leadoff, get on base enough that when he was on base,
he could cause havoc on the other team. All of that happened and now
he has a chance to play at the next level (professional). I was thinking
about what a great year it was for him and how grateful I am to Ole Miss.
He played in the College World Series, he found a girlfriend, he got
drafted in the 12th round. It was a fantastic year for our family, "
Russell added, "Like Jill said, it was a great year. Last night I was shaking
Coach Lafferty's hand (Assistant Coach) and thanked him for everything
they did. If I would have seen Bianco, I would told him the same thing.
We are as about as proud of Braxton as we can be."
In closing, this whole season was a special time for me personally. I had
the privilege to watch this team in person for 10 games including the first
two (2) games at ULL in the Super Regional and about another 30 times via
TV or Rebel Vision. These guys gave it everything they had each time they
took the field. When you know the people involved, it makes it even more
Knowing the parents and in some cases, the grandparents of Braxton Lee,
Errol Robinson, and Austin Knight, you know why these guys were successful.
Great people produce great people. All of three (3) of these great baseball
players are great people first and foremost. They come from good stock.
Thanks to Jill and Russell for making the time during this past week in to
give us all insight into their daily lives while watching their son play in
'The Greatest Show on Dirt" aka The College World Series.
Hotty Toddy Braxton! You made us all proud.