November 11, 2010 6:15:00 AM
HAMILTON -- The tie said it all.
Anyone who knows Chase Reeves understands his love for the University of Mississippi. Ever since he was 7 years old and attended his first baseball game in Oxford, Reeves has dreamed of donning the Rebels'' pinstripes and playing in the outfield or pitching in front of a packed stadium.
On Wednesday, the Hamilton High School standout outfielder/pitcher took another step closer to getting that coveted uniform when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Ole Miss.
"I am excited. This is a big deal," Reeves said. "Ever since I was a little kid it has been my dream to play at Ole Miss, so having an opportunity to be up there is exciting."
Reeves looked resplendent with a red and blue Ole Miss tie on a day he shared with family, friends, and coaches in the Hamilton High media center. He said his aunt bought him the tie about a month ago. By then, it was a forgone conclusion Reeves would pick Ole Miss. He said he knew immediately after visiting Ole Miss last fall that he wanted to go to school there.
Reeves said the feeling he had when he was 7 always has stuck with him. He said there is just something about being at Ole Miss that suits him. In the years ahead, Reeves could face summer league teammate Will Cox, of Amory High, who signed Wednesday to play baseball at Mississippi State.
"They project me somewhere in the outfield, and I might pitch a little bit," Reeves said. "It is up to me. If I go up and do good, I will play."
Hamilton High baseball coach Lewis Earnest said Reeves has all of the tools to play a key role for the Rebels.
"He has worked extremely hard," Earnest said. "He has played a lot of ball on his own in the summer and in the fall. That was really how he was noticed. ... He loves it, and you can tell he loves it by the results."
Earnest praised Reeves for his work ethic and for the example he sets with his program. He hopes the other Lions and future players who come through the program see how their dedication and investment can be rewarded if they work as hard as Reeves.
Reeves, a left-handed pitcher, has been a contributor at the varsity level since 2006, when he was a first-team Class 1A, Region 2 pick. The awards have come fast and furious since then, including last season when he was a first-team Class 2A, Region 2 pick. He also received the Hamilton High Leadership and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Mississippi Hardball, a website that covers baseball in the state of Mississippi, rated Reeves the top overall hitter and in the top 10 for all underclassmen in the Class of 2011.
"I think he is going to be fine (at Ole Miss)," Earnest said. "He has a great swing. He covers ground good in the outfield. I don''t know if they will even consider himself pitching, but he can do that. I think he is just going to get better. I know he is going to work for it and it is a dream he has worked long and hard for. I have no doubt he is going to succeed."
NOTE: Itawamba Community College sophomore John Gatlin, of Tupelo, also signed Wednesday to play baseball at Ole Miss. Gatlin batted .331 in 38 starts for the North Division Champion Indians and had a slugging percentage of .424 to go along with a .423 on-base percentage as a freshman.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.