Big league players sign autographs for locals
Can I have your autograph?
Kids and parents smiled with excitement Thursday night at King’s Daughters Medical Center’s Performance Center’s ‘Night on the Diamond’ event. Major League baseball players Corey Dickerson, Hunter Renfroe, Brent Leach and Jervenski Johnson greeted the entire crowd with handshakes, smiles, and autographs in a rare public signing by the four players at one event.
“It was good to meet everyone, especially the kids that have become fans of mine,” said Dickerson, a Brookhaven Academy product who is a projected starting outfielder and lead-off batter of the Colorado Rockies.
The event, which also included a silent auction and a meet and greet with every player, was a big boost for the community that has seen eight baseball players drafted out of Copiah, Lincoln, and Pike counties in the last seven years.
“It’s awesome meeting these guys you root for and see play on TV, said Brookhaven native Russ Britt. “Corey and Hunter are two of the best hitters in baseball and really good guys too.”
Hunter Renfroe, an SEC All- American at Mississippi State last year and a first round pick of the San Diego Padres, was a big draw for fans who followed State’s run to the College World Series.
“Anytime you can sign things for kids it’s always rewarding,” said Renfroe. “It’s memories.”
The 6-1, 205-pound Renfroe made several memories last year with every home run he hit. Before the signing he took time out to talk with Brookhaven High’s baseball team, as did Brandon native Brent Leach of the Milwaukee Brewers and premier Red Sox outfield prospect Jervenski Johnson out of Amite, La.
Johnson, who is one of the fastest players to come out of Louisiana, wowed scouts last year with 6.38-60-yard dash marks.
“I enjoyed meeting the good people of Brookhaven,” said Johnson. “You can tell they love baseball around here.”
Leach, a lefty specialist, enjoyed interacting with everyone both young and old as he shared his stories about playing in Japan and the Dominican Republic, plus his days as a Los Angeles Dodger and hosting kids’ camps in Lincoln and Franklin counties in the past.
“Everyone was smiling and asking questions about baseball, and that says a lot,” said Leach. “We as professional baseball players sometimes forget that it’s a kids’ game. We have to set good Christian examples for them to follow so they will, too, when they are where we are one day for the next generation of players.”
Leach a devote Christian, signed each autograph with a scripture: Galatians 6:14.
Still the draw was Dickerson. The hometown hero was greeted with well wishes and hugs by many of his followers that watched him earn a big league call-up last summer.
Dickerson’s rise through the minor leagues was an epic one, hitting at every level at a record rate.
“I just give my best everyday. Every workout, every practice, every game,” said Dickerson. “I’m looking forward to this season. I’ve been working and training hard this off season. I do feel I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
Dickerson reports for spring training next month but before that he’ll have his annual kids’ camp on Saturday, Feb 1, at BA.
This year he will hold a select hitting clinic after the morning youth camp for high school players that evening with help from other major league baseball players.
“The camp is always fun,” said Dickerson. “You get to teach kids more about the game and stuff that I’ve been taught, too, as a hitter and an outfielder throughout my career.”
With Dickerson, Renfroe, Johnson and Leach, the “Night on a Diamond” was also a teaching experience of style and charisma by professional baseball players that are thankful for their fan support.
“KDMC is the place to be,” hummed Leach as the night ended. “Tonight was a home run.”