Moreland's offense recognized with All-Star spot


Mitch Moreland during his MSU career

By: 
DANNY P. SMITH
Staff Writer

Mitch Moreland proved to be a very valuable member of the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the baseball field as an outfielder, first baseman and pitcher.

When the Texas Rangers wanted to sign Moreland as a pitcher, MSU coach Ron Polk tried to convince the organization to take a look at his offense also.

"I told the Ranger scouts that the guy can swing the bat and they said, 'we know but we want him to pitch,' and they said they may try to do both which sometime they do in pro baseball," Polk said.

Once Moreland signed and began moving up with the Rangers, they realized that Polk was right. They saw that playing first base and putting a bat in his hand was the way Moreland could help the most.

Moreland was drafted in the 17th round by Texas in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft and made his debut with the Rangers in 2010. He spent seven seasons in Texas and won a Gold Glove in 2016, then signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2017.

Now in his ninth MLB season, Moreland has been chosen to represent the Red Sox on the American League roster in tonight's All-Star Game.

Even though Polk is coaching near Boston in the Cape Cod League, his schedule does not allow him to go see Moreland play. That did not keep Polk from contacting Moreland after learning the news about the All-Star Game.

"I called Mitch right after it happened and I said 'Mitch I'm proud of you,'" Polk said. "That's huge. I don't think he won the ballot of the fans, so the players put him on there. He's up there in Boston. I never get the chance to see him play even though he's an hour and a half away. I've been so busy with a lot of games."

The Red Sox are first in the AL East at the All-Star break and Moreland has been a big reason why with 11 home runs and 46 RBI. He has a .278 batting average and his four triples ranked in the top 10 of the American League.

One of the most rewarding parts of being involved in the All-Star Game for Moreland is he gets to experience it with his family and especially 5-year-old son Crue.

"I think the biggest thing over the years is watching the Home Run Derby, (and) the guys having their kids with them out on the field," Moreland told The Associated Press. "I'm looking forward to doing that with my son, my oldest, and I think he's looking forward to that, too."

Moreland becomes the ninth former Mississippi State player to be selected an All-Star and 23rd total selection. He is the first since Jonathan Papelbon made the National League roster with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015.

As a senior Bulldog in 2007, Moreland batted .343 with 10 homers and 62 RBI. MSU went to the College World Series that season.

Joe Dier, a former MSU sports information director for baseball, remembers when Moreland came to the mound from right field to earn a save to claim the Starkville Super Regional championship and secure the trip to Omaha, Nebraska.

"It was his last game at Dudy Noble Field for us," Dier said. "He played right field for us and he was pretty good on the mound. In that championship game of the NCAA super regional, Mitch came in and retired the two batters he faced. I think there was a runner on base, but it was a save situation and the last out was a three-pitch strikeout. he was about as pumped as the crowd was at Dudy Noble Field."

Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley, Bobby Thigpen and Papelbon are other MLB All-Stars that played for the Bulldogs under Polk.

When it comes to Moreland, Polk said he had the complete package.

"He was a great player for us, a great person, a great guy to recruit and a great dual guy," Polk said. "We're proud of him and glad he is in the All-Star Game. I wish I could watch it, but we've got games every night."

The MLB All-Star game will be televised by FOX starting at 7 p.m.

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