Stevens’ moment in the sun was for dreamers everywhere

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 2008

Somewhere there is a Corey Stevens in every one of us.

Deep down in some, on the surface in others lies that extra gear to will oneself, whether on an athletic field, at home or in an office, to succeed. When we find that Corey Stevens in our own souls, there is no better feeling.

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So who is Corey Stevens? He’s a former Clinton Arrow and Hinds Community College baseball player. He is generously listed in the Southern Miss media guide as standing 5-feet, 11-inches, but in reality is not that tall. He certainly doesn’t look like a power hitter.

Yet on a crisp, early spring evening at Trustmark Park in Pearl — a place where home runs go to die — Stevens delivered the biggest hit of his life. One out, bottom of the 10th inning against rival Ole Miss with his entire family in attendance, Stevens stepped into the batter’s box. Ole Miss pitcher Justin Cryer was firing fastballs at 90 mph and all baseball fans have heard the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball.

The wind blew out to left field, but Stevens didn’t hit it to left. He clubbed that leather to dead center field. The number on the wall reads 402, but at Trustmark that number is deceiving. The park is built into a hole, the main concourse on ground level, the playing field well underneath ground level.

Stevens saw one fastball for a strike. The scoreboard read Ole Miss 2, Southern Miss 2. He knew the next pitch would be a similar heater. No way, he said afterward, was he going to see an off-speed pitch.

He sat fastball — dead-red in baseball venacular — and took a mighty step forward. He smacked it high into the night chill. Ole Miss center fielder Michael Guerrero drifted back toward the wall. He kept drifting. He kept drifting until there was no more room to drift.

By how much Stevens’ ball cleared the fence is immaterial. It may have traveled 402 1/2 feet for all we know, but it got over. Southern Miss 3, Ole Miss 2.

Surrounded by television cameras and reporters’ tape recorders, Stevens beamed that this was the finest baseball moment of his career. He didn’t talk about himself for very long, though. He instead lauded over his team’s pitching and defense, the ability to come back after being down 2-0 and seeing his Eagles squander one golden opportunity after the next.

When he strode to the plate, he was the one with the golden opportunity. And he nailed it.

After his wide-grinned interviews, he walked toward the waiting throng of family and friends surrounding the Southern Miss dugout. Cellphones were thrust at him, pictures were taken and hugs were plentiful.

It’s the kind of moment that appears the next morning on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. It’s the kind of moment everyone from baseball player to engineer to teacher waits for.

Stevens is not a home-run hitter, but how many of us are? Most of us are singles hitters prone to strike out more than we wish. But when that opportunity comes along, eventually we grab hold and seize it.

Just like Corey Stevens did.

Just like we all hope to do.


Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at