MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

March 22, 2014

Two area collegians conclude there’s no place like home

To anyone who has ever said you can’t go home again, don’t tell that to Mitch Stevenson and Jarrard Poteete.

Stevenson, who played for Muskogee High School, is playing his senior year at Northeastern State after playing his first three years of collegiate baseball at Southern Virginia University, an NCAA Division III school located in Buena Vista, Va.

He batted .478 with 15 doubles, two triples, 37 runs scored and 29 runs batted in his junior year but the yearning to have his family watch more of his games was too great to overcome.

“My parents had only see a handful of games and I just wanted them to be around me my last year,” Stevenson said. “Being around family and friends my senior year just seemed like the right thing to do.”

However, there are aspects of his time in Virginia that Stevenson looks back fondly on.

“I had a great experience on the east coast,” he said. “Those three years, I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

As for Poteete, his decision to transfer to Connors State, the No. 1 ranked team in the latest NJCAA coaches poll, was based more on familiarity than homesickness.

A member of Hilldale’s 2012 state championship team, Poteete played his freshman year at Texas Tech where he batted .280 with three home runs, 34 runs scored and 25 RBIs and was named Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America, the 10th player in Tech history to earn the honor.

“I’ve known about Connors my whole life,” Poteete said. “My dad and grandfather played here.  I’ve grown up around it and knew it was a good program. And I just wanted to be a part of it.”

It was also a chance to play with guys he had gone to battle with and against since he began playing baseball.

“I know a lot of guys on the team and played around this area my whole life,” Poteete said. “It just feels like old times,” Poteete said. “A lot of these guys, I’ve been playing with them or against them since I was nine years old, either in high school or in summer ball.”

With both players in their final year at their respective institutions, their future plans have already been put into motion.

Stevenson, who’s batting .262 with four doubles, nine runs scored and two RBIs for the RiverHawks, is taking the advice he got from scouts and coaches while playing summer ball in the Valley and Carolina-Virginia Summer Leagues.

“I’ve talked to a few scouts and a couple of independent league guys,” he said. “One scout told me he felt comfortable I had the ability to play at the independent league level but that I wasn’t quite ready for Major League baseball.

“There were also guys on the teams I played with in Virginia that wanted to see me be successful and I wanted to see them be successful. So being able to call somebody at 11 p.m. and say ‘Hey, let’s go to the cage and hit,’ those type of things you can put into words how much it means to you.”He also feels that the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the conference he’s transferred into, is one of the top baseball conferences in the country and will gain him a lot more exposure.

“Every game, we’re going up against a guy who has a good chance of being drafted,” Stevenson said. “That means every game, we have to bring it. There are no games off in this conference.”

Poteete is batting .354 for the Cowboys with four doubles, one triple, one home run, 18 runs scored and 27 RBIs through the first 27 games of the season. While this is his final year at Connors, he still has his sights on playing more collegiate baseball.

“I’ve signed a letter of intent with the University of Kentucky so I plan to go there,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in June. “

As for Stevenson, if he needs advice on moving up to the next level, all he has to do is text his best friend and former teammate at MHS Archie Bradley. The former Rougher is assigned the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate but is a non-roster invitee with the parent club on its trip to Australia to open the major league season this weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Me and Archie played together growing up,” Stevenson said. “We’ve kept in touch even with me moving and him moving. We have a tradition to be together every New Year’s no matter where we are. He’s doing great and there’s a chance he might land a fifth spot in the rotation.”l

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