By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
THE BEST BASEBALL PLAYER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
BRISTOL, CT.—Over the past few years, we’ve talked about the lack of African-American players in all levels of college baseball and in the majors. In fact, there are more Hispanics in Major League Baseball now than Black players.
A look at this year’s Opening Day rosters shows that Hispanics are outnumbering African-Americans in the “National Pastime” by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. However, there are some slow strides.
Last year’s 2nd overall pick in the Amateur Draft (by the Brewers), Southern’s Rickie Weeks was the unanimous choice as the best collegiate player in the country in 2003.
In the first 20 games of his professional career with Beloit (AA) of the Midwest League, Weeks batted .349 with a homer and 16 RBIs.
But we’d like to talk about an outstanding player that you may not have heard of. His name is Antoine Tucker. A native of Hampton, Virginia, the senior outfielder for Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University was the CIAA’s 2004 Player of the Year.
After batting .332 in 2003, Tucker finished with a .417 clip. He was also second in hits (36) and third overall in RBI (30). But his real strength came on the basepaths.
In just 34 games, Tucker finished with 65 stolen bases. This is after steal a combined 62 bases during the two previous seasons.
Tucker’s standout season helped lead the Vikings to the CIAA Championship game. In the 15-1 semifinal win over Saint Augustine’s, Tucker finished the game 3 for 6 with 3 stolen bases and an RBI.
ECSU would eventually lose to Virginia State in the title game.
Tucker transferred to ECSU from Louisburg (N.C.) College two years ago. “I was going to one of their games hoping to get another player”, said ECSU head baseball coach Terrance Whittle.
“They had a player that I was looking to recruit for us, but Antoine just stuck out. His speed and overall skills was an eye-opener for me.”
The baseball tradition at Louisburg was also an attraction for Coach Whittle. The Hurricanes have won 22 conference titles, 9 district championships and 9 trips to the National Junior College World Series.
Twelve former Hurricanes have made it to the Major Leagues, including Otis Nixon (Yankees, Indians, Braves), Greg Briley (Mariners, Marlins), and Chad Fonville (Expos, Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox). Over 60 Louisburg College players have signed and played professional baseball.
Tucker, who also played basketball, was turned on to baseball at a young age. “My father played ball when I was a kid”, Tucker added. “It’s just something that’s always been a part of me even at a young age.”
Tucker has yet to be approached by any teams, but he’s hoping for a shot at playing in the majors. He’s definitely someone we’ll be keeping our eye on here at BASN when the Amateur Draft comes up in June.
COVERING ALL THE BASES On the Division I front, several SWAC teams and players are among the nation’s leaders in batting and pitching. For example: — Southern University’s .346 team BA is fourth in the nation. In fact, two cogs in SU hitting attack are among the nation’s leaders.
Andrew Toussaint is 2nd in the nation in RBIs per game and 5th overall in homers per game.
– Toussaint’s teammate, Joshua LeBlanc has scored 41 runs in 31 games this season (8th overall). Toussaint and LeBlanc are 3-4 respectively in the nation in slugging percentage as well.
– Jackson State is ranked 10th nationally in runs per game (8.8).
Junior Carl Lipsey leads the nation in stolen bases with 46 in 43 games. Alcorn State’s Corey Wimberly (39-39) in third.
– Southern pitcher Jose Pena’s 0.92 ERA is the second-best in the nation. The freshman has allowed just 4 earned runs in 39 innings this season.
– These statistics are through all games played on April 25th.