Simmons hoping to catch recruiter’s pitch

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 8, 2001

Clay Simmons (21) of St. Aloysius calls timeout after stealing a base at Lake on April 16. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

[06/08/01] Clay Simmons hopes to catch a college recruiter’s eye during the Class 1A/2A/3A state all-star game on Saturday even if the game is the furthest thing from his mind.

During his class trip to Cancun, Simmons was almost forced to leave early because of a serious medical condition affecting his 5-year-old nephew, Austin Crow, who Simmons said is like his little brother.

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What started out as a case of the chicken pox, quickly worsened. Crow’s temperature shot up to 106 degrees. His blood became poisoned after his kidneys started to fail.

“I was going to have to come back in the middle of my trip because we didn’t think he was going to make it,” Simmons said. “It was really scary.”

Crow spent three days in intensive care until finally warding off his condition. He was expected to leave the hospital on Thursday and may even make the trip to Southern Mississippi’s Pete Taylor Park for the 2 p.m. game.

“It’s been a rough week,” said Simmons, who battled the rain to take his first swings since the Flashes lost to Lake in the Class 1A South State finals on May 5. “He wants to come (to the game). He’s my biggest fan, I’ll tell you that.”

Simmons hopes to find some more fans preferably college coaches needing a middle infielder or outfielder.

Simmons is among four Warren County players who will suit up in state all-star games Saturday, but the only one looking to catch a college coach’s eye.

Warren Central’s Kevin Coker, Taylor Tankersley and Brent Towne as well as Vikings’ coach Sam Temple will play in the Class 4A/5A all-star game, which starts at 7 p.m.

All three Vikings have signed to play college ball next season.

“I’m as excited as can be, but I’m a little nervous,” said Simmons, who reported Thursday morning for workouts. ” … I think I may need to play some outfield because I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

Simmons hardly embarrassed himself this year, batting .466 with 21 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. He garnered a spot on The Vicksburg Post All-County Team for the third straight year.

Delta State and Southeastern Louisiana have shown the most interest in the three-sport star, who will scrap football and basketball on the college level.

“It’s a good opportunity for someone to see me, because not that many people have seen me play,” Simmons said. “This should be my biggest game to show what I can do.”

In the nightcap, Coker could get one final chance to catch for Tankersley.

Coker, a catcher who signed with USM, injured the middle finger of his throwing hand while diving into first base in the second game of the second round of the playoffs against Madison Central. He was unable to play after that during the Vikings’ state championship run.

Doctors cleared Coker to catch, but he may not be able to hit. His finger is still swollen, but he doesn’t have the cast anymore.

“Catching Taylor again is the only reason I want to play,” said Coker, who will get a sneak peek at his home field for the next four years.

“My doctor said I’m cleared and ever since that day I’ve been excited.”

Temple, who was chosen to coach in his first season of eligibility, said he will start Tankersley on the hill.

Coker hit .393 with with 28 RBIs and 10 doubles in leading the Vikings to their first state championship.

Tankersley, the Vicksburg Post Player of the Year, was 13-0 with a minuscule 0.44 ERA.

The left-hander was drafted Wednesday in the 38th round by the Kansas City Royals, but it’s unlikely that he will sign with them. He signed to play at the University of Alabama before his final season started.

“We’re going to put Kevin through the ringer in practice a couple times and if everything checks out good … he’ll surely get a chance to start,” Temple said.

Towne, who signed to play at Meridian Community College, hit .341 with 37 RBIs while playing a solid third base. Towne was also an All-County selection.