October 20, 2013 2:04:03 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Reid Humphreys always dreamed of playing at Dudy Noble Field.
The freshman infielder from Northwest Rankin High School isn't letting the nervous energy of achieving that dream work against him as he tries to earn a significant role in his first season with the Mississippi State baseball team.
"Now I realize the dream doesn't stop when you get to this point," Humphreys said. "I just want to do whatever it takes to win now that I'm here. I watch guys like John Holder, C.T. Bradford, and Brett Pirtle get to Omaha (Neb., site of the College World Series), and that's where I want to be, too."
The 2013 Louisville Slugger High School First Team All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi is one of the new faces trying to find a role this fall so he can force his way into the 2014 lineup at third base.
"Reid comes from a great family, and we feel like he is going to be a great player," MSU coach John Cohen said. "Reid enters our program with a very good skill set."
On Saturday, Humphreys punished a first-pitch fastball to right field for a two-run single in the second of the Bulldogs' scrimmages this weekend.
"That was coming off a Friday night where I had three strikeouts and really felt a need to get my confidence back at the plate," Humphreys said. "The only way I know how to do that is be aggressive and look for my pitch early."
Humphreys' older half brother is Washington Nationals outfielder and former MSU outfielder Tyler Moore. Humphreys batted .360 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs as a junior at Northwest Rankin. He also was 6-3 record with a 1.85 ERA. Humphrey's is coming off Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow that ended his chances to contribute last season on the football field and forced him to focus on baseball.
"My elbow is a lot stronger than it was months ago because I've been able to do extra workouts in the weight room," Humphreys said.
Humphreys has never played third base, but the MSU coaches feel playing him at that position is the best way to take advantage of his power. Last week, he had a game-winning double in an intra-squad scrimmage.
"I really want to thank (senior third baseman) Alex Detz for taking me under his wing and teaching me how to play third base because it wasn't a position he felt comfortable with 100 percent when he got here, either," Humphreys said.
Humphreys is part of MSU's 2012-13 baseball signing class that was ranked No. 2 nationally by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. The 2012-13 newcomers are the fourth MSU class in the last five years to be ranked in the top 15 by Collegiate Baseball or Baseball America, and the second group to finish in the top eight.
"When you look at a Reid Humphreys, what you see is somebody where you don't have to coach effort or desire because it's clear this is what he's always wanted for himself," MSU assistant coach and lead recruiter Butch Thompson said. "He comes from a solid family, like all of our kids, and he's mentally gotten past the Tommy John surgery, which is the biggest hurdle. I watch him and think, 'Wow I'm glad he's on our side.' "
Humphreys also has shown the speed and baseball instincts Cohen and his coaches value. He showcased those instincts last week when he made a smart running decision on a suicide squeeze with Demarcus Henderson.
"It always feels like my ability to get the game slowed down isn't going as well I'd like, but coach Cohen continues to work with us on situational play, and that's helping me a lot," Humphreys said. "The key is being able to figure out when to be aggressive, whether it's on the bases, at the plate, or in the field."
The pitching is the biggest change Humphreys is seeing after dominating in high school and travel ball.
"I haven't seen a bad pitcher yet, and I don't imagine I'll see another one again," Humphreys said. "Everybody that comes here and we'll face has good stuff, and you have to be ready to attack even a moderate mistake immediately."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.