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Cards make Byrd’s dream come true

It’s a dream come true for Lincoln County product Kolby Byrd.The 21-year-old, rifle-armed catcher was drafted in Major LeagueBaseball’s 13th round Tuesday by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Byrd, a strong 6-foot-1, 215-pound athlete, had been to fourshowcases in recent weeks but said, “I’ve been talking to eightdifferent teams. The last one was at Kansas City, lastweekend.”

He went to St. Louis, Texas Rangers and New York Mets showcases.The teams provided the transportation and accommodations during hisstay at each location.

“They test your pop time,” said Byrd. “They check how quick mythrows are from home plate to second base. And you run the 60-yarddash.”

Byrd signed with Mississippi State University after a stellarcareer at Brookhaven Academy. MSU coach John Cohen redshirted himas a freshman. Byrd elected to leaven the program and play closerto home where he loves to hunt and fish.

Co-Lin coach Keith Case was happy to have Byrd on his squad in2011. He led the Wolfpack in home runs (8), RBIs (36) and sluggingpercentage (.618). The freshman catcher bats left-handed. He had a.344 batting average and was second on the team in total bases(81), hits (45), doubles (10) and walks (14).

“I’m proud for Kolby,” said Coach Case. “Not many folks get achance to have their name called. He’s in a small group ofMississippi players who got drafted.”

Tuesday was a busy day for Mississippi standouts as 29 high schoolprospects, signees with state colleges and current players at statecolleges were among 871 players taken in the second day of the3-day draft. Sumrall shortstop Connor Barron, a Southern Misssignee, was the first Magnolia Stater chosen, going to the FloridaMarlins in the third round.

Asked about his opportunity to play for the Cardinals, Byrd said,”It’s just a privilege. That’s the team I wanted to go with. I’vealways been a big (Albert) Pujols fan,” referring to the Cards’All-Star first baseman.

Contract negotiations are the next step. Attorney Bus Cook ofHattiesburg handles most of the Mississippi professional athletes.”(Cardinals) said they would talk money with me tonight andtomorrow,” said Byrd. “We’ll probably go somewhere and eat andcelebrate.”

James O. Covington, baseball advisor with Bus Cook Sports, said,”Kolby is the second catcher they took. He reminds them of AtlantaBraves catcher Brian McCann. He has left-side power to all fields.He also showcased a 1.78 pop time which is above average for manymajor league catchers.

“Kolby had a great season at Co-Lin,” added Covington. “He was theonly junior college player from Mississippi drafted.”

Byrd had a regional workout at Brookhaven Academy last month andimpressed the St. Louis scouts. “He was very impressive at thatworkout,” said Covington. “He was invited to their Select Workoutin Houston, Texas. He impressed the national scouting director forthe Cardinals and the scouting cross-checkers.”

Byrd said he enjoyed playing for Case and being a member of theWolfpack squad. “I enjoyed Co-Lin. The best thing was cominghome.”

He said a few senior colleges had contacted him about transferringbut his original plan was to remain at Co-Lin for his sophomoreseason.

Cohen’s rigorous preseason workouts are well known around theSoutheastern Conference. Byrd lost 35 pounds dropping from 230 to190 during his time with MSU.

“Mississippi State was a good experience for me,” said Byrd. “I’mglad I left. They tried to change my hitting stance.”

His parents, Terry and Liz Byrd, said they appreciated BCS forpromoting their son’s baseball skills. “I want to thank JamesCovington and BCS,” said Terry Byrd. “They kept us on the road thelast month. They really kept us busy.”

During his prep career, Byrd earned numerous honors. He was an MVPlinebacker on The DAILY LEADER’S All-Lincoln County Team in 2008and selected Mr. Baseball on the DL’s All-County Baseball Team in2009.