By Ken Hoffman - The Houston Chronicle
May 23, 2013
We always hear about former Houston-area ball players doing great things for their major college teams. Over in Mississippi, Houston players are doing great things for a small college called Millsaps ... including helping the baseball team qualify for the NCAA Division III World Series for the first time.
Senior pitcher Will Elmore from Clear Lake High School threw a shutout in a Southern Athletic Association elimination game, and sophomore William Chenoweth from Cy-Creek High School made two catches in the regional championship that were worthy of "Web Gems" on ESPN. His arm is a military-grade cannon.
Millsaps baseball coach Jim Page (right) with Millsaps College president Dr. Rob Pearigen
In fact, head baseball coach Jim Page can't remember one time in his 25 years at Millsaps when there weren't two, three, sometimes four, even five players from Houston on his squad.
I spoke with Page on Tuesday, while the Millsaps team was riding a bus from Jackson, Miss., to the Division III World Series in Appleton, Wis. The team overnighted in Chicago so the guys could catch the White Sox vs. Red Sox game. The team would have preferred a Cubs game, but the Cubs were playing in Pittsburgh.
I asked the coach, how does a small college in Mississippi (total enrollment 950) compete for top high school players in Houston?
"Houston is a hotbed for baseball talent, and we spend a lot of time in the summer and fall in the area looking for student athletes," he said. "It's impossible for us to see all of that talent, so we rely on former players and friends, too."
How respected is Houston high school baseball? I once heard a statistic that sounds so crazy, it just might be true: 5 percent of all college baseball players come from Houston-area high schools.
Page thinks that sounds about right.
Why would a hotshot from the hotbed pick a small college like Millsaps? To be honest, until my kid played for a Little League team coached by TWO Millsaps grads, I had never heard of the school.
"Millsaps has an outstanding baseball program that competes nationally. We have a wonderful business school and pre-med and pre-law programs. We're small. Our professors teach here. We don't have graduate assistants teaching classes. Our class sizes are small. The professors know your name. You're not 'Student No. 16,045.' We're a good fit for some young people," Page said.
"If a player comes to Millsaps, he will graduate in four years with a degree that will serve him the rest of his life. And our baseball teams win."
Millsaps has won more than 600 baseball games in Page's quarter-century as head coach.