March 4, 2009
When Russ Boyd was a freshman at Millsaps College, he contemplated playing basketball and not baseball.
The only problem was he was recruited to Millsaps to play baseball.
Boyd, a 2005 graduate of New Hope High School, played basketball and baseball that first season at Millsaps, but he since has focused on baseball.
Boyd said he likes basketball and baseball the same, but his sophomore season he decided to concentrate on playing baseball.
"When I chose to play baseball, it''s something I stuck with and something I''m glad I did," Boyd said. "It''s been a good experience all the way around. Basketball or baseball at Millsaps would have been the same."
Boyd, a senior catcher, has helped the Majors to a 13-1 record this season after a 14-4 victory against Belhaven on Tuesday. Millsaps, a Division III school, is ranked No. 14 in the D3baseball.com poll released Monday.
Boyd is hitting .333 with four doubles, one home run, and 16 RBIs. He has started all 13 games behind the plate or as designated hitter.
Boyd hopes the Majors can continue to have a successful season and play for a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
"Baseball''s a crazy game," Boyd said. "As long as we stay on the same page and we keep pulling for each other, this team doesn''t have any limits. As far as talent, we have some talent, but with the players'' attitudes that we have, we have top-notch players.
"Going into the season, we really didn''t know what to expect. I think we''re doing better than what some people thought, but we always thought we could play."
Boyd committed to baseball after Millsaps baseball coach Jim Page reminded him why he enrolled in the school.
"He was going to play basketball and then play baseball for us his freshman year," Page recalled. "Well, he comes into my office and says, ''Coach I''m not going to play baseball.'' I said, ''Yeah you are. I recruited you to come here and play baseball.'' "
Page, who earned his 500th victory at Millsaps this season, learned Boyd was hesitant about playing baseball because he was having trouble throwing the ball.
"He said, ''Coach I can''t throw,'' " Page said. "He said, ''I just hit a car in the parking lot. I threw it 10 feet from the guy I was playing catch with. I''m not playing.''
"He was really shaken up by it. He said it went on his senior year (at New Hope) and he said, ''I just can''t do it any more.'' "
But Page talked Boyd into playing baseball his freshman season and he has been playing ever since.
"We''re getting started and Russ isn''t out there with us his freshman season," Page said. "So finally basketball was getting ready to end in about a week and I happened to run into Russ and I said, ''Hey I recruited you here and you owe me three days of practice.'' I said, ''You''re going to come and practice with me for three days and then if you don''t like it you can quit, but you owe me three days of practice. He kind of laughed and I said, ''I''m serious Russ.'' "
Boyd agreed to play baseball, but he wanted to be an outfielder. Page told him he recruited him as a catcher, but he promised he wouldn''t put him behind the plate without talking to him first.
"Here''s the ironic thing," Page said. "He could not throw the ball back to the pitcher. So I said, ''Look at the pitcher like he has a rim sticking out from his chest and bank it off of his face. Throw it back to him like you''re shooting a basketball, so he did."
Page convinced Boyd to catch his freshman season when the Majors experienced problems behind the plate, and Boyd has been starting ever since.
As it has turned out, Boyd no longer has trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher or throwing to second base to try to erase runners trying to steal.
"In the four years he''s the only catcher I''ve had that''s never thrown the ball away to a pitcher," Page said. "It''s really unbelievable. The kid almost didn''t play."
Page said Boyd has developed into a leader on and off the field.
"Russ has been unbelievable," Page said. "I could go on for an hour just what he''s done for us baseball wise. I could go on for an hour what he does off the field and how he represents our baseball program and Millsaps College. I could go on another hour on how he lives his life and how he deals with just not the other guys on the team, but myself and the other coaches."
Earlier this season an incident occurred that showed Page how Boyd has become a team leader.
"We have a kid who is a freshman and he''s going to be a real good one, and he''s good now," Page said. "He popped up a ball and he thought it went foul behind the catcher. The wind was blowing and the ball landed fair and kid ended up getting thrown out at first.
"It was one of those mistakes I really didn''t have to say anything. The kid knew what he had done. When we got back to the dugout I called him over. Russ, immediately, as I''m talking to the kid, kind of jumped over to have the kid''s back if I got on him too hard. Russ said, ''Hey coach, it''s all right, he''s not going to do that again.''
"That was awesome. That''s ownership in the program you want to have, a kid looking out for a younger kid. It''s a neat thing."
Boyd is a big reason why the Majors are off to a successful start, but he also excels in the classroom. This past Friday, he was accepted to Physical Training School at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
"I wasn''t sure if I was going to be accepted," Boyd said. "I figured I was going to be, but I wasn''t 100 percent sure. When I got that letter in the mail Friday, it was a blessing."
Boyd looks forward to finishing the baseball season and then launching a career in physical therapy.