Keith Case left his mark on Copiah-Lincoln in a hall-of-fame coaching career
Published 4:00 pm Saturday, April 30, 2022
When you think of baseball at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, you think of Keith Case. The head coach of that program for 21 years, Case grew into adulthood during his long tenure in Wesson.
Already a member of the Co-Lin Sports Hall of Fame, Case added a new honor to his resume on Tuesday when he was enshrined in the Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2022.
The MCC Sports Hall of Fame inducts one honoree from Mississippi’s 15 community colleges in a ceremony each year at the Clyde Muse Center in Pearl.
He was presented by Co-Lin president Dr. Jane Hulon Sims and was joined by his wife Susan, daughter Rassie, son-in-law and daughter Zach and Massie Gregory and granddaughter Emmaline.
Case took Co-Lin to the NJCAA College World Series twice in a career that saw him win over 600 games as the head coach of the Wolves.
His 2000 team was loaded with talent as those Wolves won 47 games, finished ranked No. 4 in the nation and set multiple school records that still stand today.
The sophomore class of that team included Nook Logan of Natchez, an eventual third-round MLB draft pick that same year. Among the other sophomore was Chris Dunn of Magee, who led the country in home runs for much of that season and went on to sign with Southern Miss.
Fellow Simpson County native Jacob Blakeny was a freshman right-handed pitcher that went on to sign with Mississippi State the next year.
Current Enterprise head baseball coach Josh Garrett was a freshman on that team and Loyd Star alum Lance Newman was a sophomore catcher.
Logan, Newman, Dunn, Blakeney and Josh McNulty are all players from that 2000 team that have found their way into the Co-Lin Athletics Hall of Fame.
After retiring from Co-Lin, Case moved on to coach Wharton County Junior College in Wharton, Texas. He transitioned into a full-time job as athletic director after the 2019 season at Wharton and handed over control of the baseball team to his former assistant Trey Porras.
Case always returns to Wesson when one of his former players is put into the CLCC Sports Hall of Fame. You can hear a high level of mutual love and respect between Case and his former players when they’re talking about him and he’s talking about them.
Today, some might call his style of coaching “old school.”
Every detail mattered. He could obsess over the “little” things, believing that those would later become “big” things if his team didn’t address them.
Bunt defense wasn’t just a practice drill — it was a series of calculated movements that were repeated again and again until everyone did their job perfectly.
How and where his players placed their hats during the national anthem was to be done in a very specific way for Case to be satisfied.
The team ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together in the cafeteria. They practiced, had study hall in the evening and had almost all of their time during the season programmed by Case.
Injuries were addressed in the trainer’s room at 5 a.m. every morning.
The punishment dished out for tardiness or poor classroom performance can still make some of his former players wince in pain with just a mention.
Assistant coach Pete Young would meet those who’d done wrong at Sullivan Field long before the sun came up. In the dewy grass there would indentions made by those forced to bear-crawl or roll head over feet or duck-walk from foul pole to foul pole.
In his early days, one unexcused absence in a class meant a five-mile punishment run for the offender.
When you were going through it as a player, there were definitely times where you didn’t agree with him, but now looking back as grown men who are husbands and fathers and business owners — those who played for Case can see a deep impact made on them by their coach.
Case had 82 of his players at Co-Lin go on to play at colleges and universities after leaving Wesson and 12 who signed professional baseball contracts.
The list of his former players who then went on to coach baseball is impressive too and includes current CLCC head coach Clay Smith.
Jaymie Palmer is in that group of those who played for Case and went into coaching. Palmer is currently the offensive coordinator for the football team at Brookhaven Academy.
“You get older and you appreciate him a lot more,” said Palmer. “I wasn’t pitching as much as I wanted to, and I went to him and said that I’d been offered a good job at the GP Mill and that I was thinking of quitting. He invited me to come eat a meal with him and Mrs. Susan. He told me that I might or might not regret quitting, but I’d definitely not regret sticking it out. He let me start coaching first base when I wasn’t pitching and that was a big part of me wanting to become a coach later.”
The 2005 team that also made the NJCAA College World Series was one that had a magical run to great heights.
There were times where that team had more injured players than healthy ones late in the season.
Newman is a nurse anesthetist now, but when he finished playing college baseball at Troy University, he was still battling the pull to become a coach.
He came back and served as an assistant on that 2005 team along with current Co-Lin athletic director Bryan Nobile.
Trying to get Newman to talk about Case without crying is an exercise in futility.
“He literally changed my life,” said Newman. “I grew up going to his camps and when he called me and offered me a scholarship, I got off the phone and cried because it was a literal dream come true for me to play for him at Co-Lin.”
The time spent at Troy to play baseball on the Division I level just made Newman appreciate the impact Case had made on him even more.
“When I saw how some coaches would use their players and treat it all like a business on the next level — it made me realize even more how lucky I was to play for someone like Keith Case,” said Newman. “It was always about so much more than just baseball; it was about turning boys into men and teaching what true accountability looks like.”
When Newman and that 2000 team were rolling over their competition, I was a high school senior that read every word written by Tom Goetz about the Wolves in The Daily Leader.
I went to church with a freshman pitcher on the team and remember him marveling over Logan’s speed and Dunn’s power when the team was practicing in the fall.
In my two years as a student at Co-Lin, I heard plenty of my friends that were on the baseball team turn down a night out in Jackson on a Thursday. Not because they didn’t want to go to The Horseshoe and sing karaoke, but because they knew that a curfew check was coming, and they dare not risk being caught out.
At the end of his career, I was an assistant basketball coach at CLCC and got to see Case from a different perspective.
The way he treated the ladies in the cafeteria that made him a sandwich each day, the relationships he had with people in the maintenance department and custodial staff — in 20 years he’d sown a silo full of goodwill with people all over the campus.
His former players all mention his deep faith and how his love of Christ wasn’t just a recruiting pitch, but something he lived out in front of them every day.
In the climate of athletics that we live in today, don’t expect to see many repeat the type of career that Keith Case was able to carve out in Wesson.
For an entire generation he was able to stay in one place and coach the game of baseball while also imparting much deeper lesson on boys that became men — a truly hall of fame worthy career.
Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.