June 26, 2010 11:25:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Philip Tice didn''t intend this spring and summer to find another opportunity.
But when you love baseball, chances to play the game will find you.
As a result, Tice will continue his baseball career in a new state and with a program that has a knack for sending its players to the Division I level.
On Thursday, Tice capped a whirlwind courtship and signed a scholarship to play baseball at Dyersburg State Community College in Dyersburg, Tenn. The former New Hope High School standout had signed in January to play baseball at East Mississippi C.C., but new EMCC coach Chris Rose released Tice from his scholarship, which allowed him to take advantage of the opportunity.
Tice had signed up for his fall classes at EMCC a week earlier and never imagined his trip with the Pontotoc Red Sox Senior American Legion team to Dyersburg, Tenn., would turn out the way it did.
"I didn''t really know (anything was going on) until a player from (Dyersburg State) was raking the field (after a game). He said, ''Our coach is about to offer you,'' " Tice said. "I was excited. I played good that game. It was surprising. They had never heard of New Hope. They saw me play and they wanted me. They saw me and offered me right there. I liked that."
The courtship started with Tice going 9-for-9. He ended up with 12 or 13 hits in 17 at-bats in the tournament. He had a home run and multiple extra-base hits in an effort that harkened back to his junior season at New Hope High, when he earned second-team All-State honors in Class 4A and led the team in batting average (.496), hits (59), RBIs (44), total bases (71), stolen bases (13), slugging percentage (.597), and on-base percentage (.556).
It didn''t take long for members of the Dyersburg State C.C. coaching staff to approach Kenny Tice, Philip''s father. The inquiry quickly turned into an offer, which Kenny Tice related to his son. Philip was surprised and excited to learn that a team that has been nationally ranked the past three seasons and has gone 242-154 since 2003 wanted him. More than 60 players from Dyersburg State, a Division I program, in that stretch have gone on to play at four-year schools. Dyersburg State went 26-15 this season.
Philip Tice said it took about a week for EMCC to release him and now he is set to go.
"It is a great opportunity," Tice said. "If I do good my two years there I want to play somewhere else. ... I am going to keep working as hard as I can. It is all about baseball there, and that is how it is with me. I like it."
Kenny Tice also is proud of the way things worked out. He said he considered having Philip work this spring and summer so he could save money to prepare for college, but he opted to let him play baseball. The decision paid off, as did the work Philip has put in and the help he has received throughout the years from coaches.
"We want to thank (former New Hope High School) coach (Stacy) Hester, (former New Hope assistant) coach (Chris) Ball, (New Hope coach) Lee Boyd, coach Rose, and Mickey Browning out of Pontotoc, the coach of the Senior American Legion team," Kenny Tice said. "We also would like to thank the coaches at Dyersburg State (George and Robert White). It is a dream come true."
Kenny Tice said the Dyersburg State coaches didn''t know anything about Philip before the saw him play. They told him "they know a good player when they see one" and that they wanted to have him be a part of their program.
Philip Tice will stay busy the rest of the summer. He will complete a 60-game schedule with Pontotoc and then head out to Dyersburg State. He said he doesn''t know anyone at the school, but is "glad" he is going there and that it will be like a fresh start.
Tice helped lead New Hope to a 23-8 record, a district title, and to the second round of the Class 5A North Half playoffs this season. He moved from second base to shortstop and into the leadoff spot in the batting order.
"I was thinking too much at the plate my senior year," Tice said. "This team right here (the Red Sox), I am not worried about the average. I am just going up there and swinging."
Tice said it felt good to regain the batting eye he had as a junior at the tournament in Tennessee and that he will do whatever it takes to make the most of this new opportunity. He said he has worked hard in the weight room since the end of the high school season and feels he is hitting the ball harder. He, too, thanked Rose and his former coaches for helping him realize the chance to play at Dyersburg State.
"Coach Rose wants what is best for me," Tice said. "He always wants what is best for his team, but I think it was really good he let me go. It really shows a lot about him."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.