May 5, 2010 11:03:00 AM
As a reserve outfielder on the Mississippi College baseball team, J''Marcus Brooks hasn''t gotten many opportunities to display his skills this season.
But when the sophomore from Columbus has gotten to play, he''s made the most of his chances.
The 5-foot-10, 173-pound fleet-footed Brooks has played in only 11 games this season for the Choctaws, but he''s produced when his name has been called.
Brooks, a 2008 graduate of Columbus High School, has five hits in 12 at-bats for a .417 batting average and he''s scored six runs and driven in three runs.
"I always feel confident when I get in the game," Brooks said. "If (Mississippi College coach Brian Owens) puts me in at any given time, I feel like I''m able to produce. I''m the type of guy that it doesn''t matter who''s doing what or what kind of pitcher is out there, I''m going to produce. I''m going to put the numbers up."
Brooks showed what he could do at tbe plate against LeTourneau the final game of the regular season on April 24 when he went 3 for 4 with an RBI and scored a run.
He got the opportunity when Mississippi College senior right fielder Brannon Walls was hit in the head and had to be taken out of the game.
"It really meant a lot to me," Brooks said. "It was an opportunity to get out there and show I can do the things they''re looking for. Basically the situation arose and I appreciated the chance to get in there and do what they needed me to do.
"I didn''t even know I was going to get to play. It was a situation where (Walls) went down. I was in the dugout rooting my team on and early in the game (Walls) went down. To be honest I didn''t expect to play. They always say be ready so when my time did come I was ready, other than the fact I didn''t know it was going to happen."
Brooks stepped in for Walls and contributed to a 16-5 victory.
Owens was confident Brooks could do a capable job filling in for Walls and wasn''t surprised by the results.
"He had a good day, especially for the situation of being thrown into the game like he was," Owens said. "He really stepped up.
"I felt the way he stepped into the box that day and the way he was swinging (he was going to hit the ball). He knew he could do it. He wasn''t like a freshman that gets in a game and is kind of shaky and nervous about swinging. He came in hacking at the first couple of pitches he saw. He had some great at-bats and he hit the ball very, very hard."
Brooks has kept a good attitude about being used in a reserve role and he''s biding his time until he gets more playing time.
Four of Mississippi College''s top five hitters are outfielders and three are seniors so Brooks will have an opportunity to earn a starting position next season as a junior.
The Choctaws'' top hitters are junior Stuart Magee (.450), senior Bo Bell (.441), senior Chase Herrin (.384) and Walls (.364).
"Sometimes you get discouraged," Brooks said. "Everybody wants to play because of the competitiveness in them. I have to look at it as a team sport.
"The guys in front of me have put the time in and time has shown that they produce at a high level. They have the experience, I will say that. They have way more experience than I do. They''re put their time in and they''ve shown what they can do."
Owens likes Brooks'' potential and sees is future being in center field or left field.
"J''Marcus, next year, has a chance to come in and be one of our starters in the outfield," Owens said. "He''s just improved so much since the first day he stepped on our campus. He''s just made some great strides. I can see him next year in a battle for one of the top three spots in the outfield.
"His biggest assset is going to be his speed. He''s really, really quick. He gets some good jumps on the ball in the outfield. His arm strength has improved a lot since his first day."
Owens has also seen Brooks improve at the plate in two years.
"Just the way his power is at the plate," Owens said. "At first he was, ''Hey, I''m going to put it on the ground and beat it out at first base.'' He''s made some adjustments at the plate where he''s swinging the bat with more authority. Now he can hit some doubles and stretch singles into doubles."
Although he''s had a small role, Brooks has helped Mississippi College to a 43-7 record and reach the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament at Seguin, Texas. The Choctaws play Texas Luthern at 3 p.m. Friday
Brooks believes the Choctaws have the ability to contend for a national championship.
"We''re having a really, really good season," Brooks said. "In my mind, we''re capable of doing something real special. To be honest, I don''t expect to lose to anybody. I think we can beat anybody in the country no matter what their record is. We have the chemistry and the talent to do something real big."
If Brooks has his name called, he''s going to try to make the most of his opportunity and help the Choctaws realize their goal of winning a national championship.