June 14, 2014 11:13:22 PM
Chase Reeves wanted to play baseball somewhere after his sophomore season at East Mississippi Community College.
But injuries created plenty of uncertainty for the former All-State pitcher/outfielder from Hamilton High School.
After signing with Ole Miss out of high school, an arm injury forced Reeves to redshirt. Reeves then found a home at EMCC in Scooba, but another injury in his first season at the junior college level forced him to the sidelines again.
This season, Reeves finally felt like he was getting back to his old self. The left-handed hitting outfielder paced EMCC (32-13) with 32 RBIs and tied for the team lead with six home runs. Reeves' production and potential was more than enough to catch the attention of the coaches at Southern Mississippi. On Tuesday, Reeves gave a verbal commitment to play baseball for the Golden Eagles.
"When I got a chance to play at that level it was a pretty easy decision, especially when it is a place like Southern Miss," said Reeves, a 6-foot, 195-pounder.
Reeves said Southern Miss recruited him out of high school, so he was familiar with the school, the coaches, and the baseball program. He said He also received interest from Spring Hill College, an NAIA school in Mobile, Alabama, and Louisiana-Monroe.
Reeves played in all 45 games for the Lions and hit .257. He led the team in at-bats (148), was fourth in doubles (seven), fourth in total bases (69), fourth in slugging percentage (.466), and third in stolen bases (13).
"I had a decent season," Reeves said. "Coming off the surgeries, I hadn't played since high school, so I was still getting back to being healthy. It wasn't until the middle of the season when I started to pick it up."
Reeves credited EMCC head coach Chris Rose and assistant coach Jarrod Parks for talking to him near the middle of the season and telling him to relax. Reeves admitted he heard the clock ticking and realized every game was an opportunity to showcase his skills for a chance to play baseball at a four-year school. Once he relaxed and let his skills take over, Reeves said he started to see familiar results at the plate.
Reeves was a Louisville Slugger All-America selection in 2009 and 2010 at Hamilton High and a three-time All-State selection in 2007, 2010, and 2011. He hit .426 for his career with 34 home runs, 180 RBIs, 32 doubles, 22 triples, and 200 runs. He also was 39-9 with one save and a 1.14 ERA. He struck out 501 and walked only 70 in 319 innings. In 2011, the Mississippi Coaches Association named Reeves the Class 2A Player of the Year.
Injuries played a big role in sidetracking Reeves. At Ole Miss, Reeves has surgery to repair a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff. Last year, he again had to have surgery after he aggravated the labrum and tore a biceps tendon.
"It is tough," Reeves said of the injuries. "It is really hard when it happens twice. I prayed about it and realized I had to control what I could control. If I did that I realized the rest of it would take care of itself."
Reeves said he felt more and more like his old self midway through the season. He said his arm strength continued to improve and he was able to generate more power at the plate. He said it was encouraging to finally be able to play the game like he used to and to know that he was showing coaches he was capable of playing at the next level.
Still, Reeves had to wait to receive an opportunity. He said he was confident something would come even if it meant waiting as long as he did.
"In high school, I knew I had the ability, so it was just a matter of getting healthy again," Reeves said. "I kind of had a mental block to where I was thinking I don't know if I can do this anymore. After the second surgery I felt 100 times better. This year, I worked hard to get my body in as good a shape as I could and my arm got better and better and I got my confidence back and started getting healthy again."
Reeves said he would continue to work to strengthen his arm in the offseason to make sure he is ready to go when he arrives in Hattiesburg in the fall. He said he has talked with the Southern Miss coaches about playing a corner outfield spot. He anticipates signing a National Letter of Intent before the end of the month.
"It has been a tough journey to say the least," Reeves said. "Every time I thought I was back healthy I would get hurt again. It was hard to deal with at first because I didn't know how to handle it. I got back to my roots and started praying again and that helped me through it. I know everything happens and I knew that it would all work out in the end someday."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.