Behind Reid Humphreys multi-faceted success for MSU baseball

This weekend, he batted in the first run, then scored the second, ensuring his Bulldogs a 2-1 victory and clinching the series against Alabama.

Last weekend, he took the mound and earned a save, beating LSU in their own stadium on Friday night to help Mississippi State win that series, too.

UTJJLUXYULLDDMU.20160419225624Playing in 42 of MSU’s 45 games so far in 2016, Reid Humphreys has made his presence felt in any space with room for a presence to be had. Pitcher, outfielder, slugger. He’s third on the team in batting average (with a team-high 39 RBI) and tied for third in strikeouts per inning, all while maintaining a fielding percentage of .983 and slugging a team-high .557. The only question left – and some say they know the answer already – is what can’t the junior star do?

“He is the most talented person I know,” said MSU outfielder and national freshman of the year candidate Jake Mangum. “He could go pick up a soccer ball and go play for somebody. Anything, you name it. He can go do water polo somewhere. It’s amazing. I’ve seen him just throw up golf balls and hit it in the air and it goes really far over a lake. He really is a talented guy.”

In fact, Humphreys was once a quarterback for his high school team, too, with dreams of adding that position to the many he already claims in Starkville. Had he had not had Tommy John surgery before his senior year of high school, it might have become a reality.

That injury, though, only makes what he’s doing now for MSU that much more impressive. Humphreys was barely able to pitch at all his senior of high school, and while it was always in the plans to be both a pitcher and a positional player at State, he hadn’t yet taken the mound for the Bulldogs when this season began less than three months ago.

“That’s the thing that’s really incredible,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “He really went through some tough times. That’s why I think this progression he’s had has been so neat.”

Said Humphreys, “If you had told me that I’d be pitching in Alex Box Stadium on Friday night a year and a half ago, I probably would have laughed. It was a dream come true.”

OBLKATWNKXMWXQQ.20160403221723About that night in Baton Rouge, though. Perhaps it was some kind of bayou magic, or more likely, it was a result of that knack Humphreys has for being able to do just about anything he wants to with his body. Whatever it was, the junior pitcher/outfielder/hitter did something his coaches had very literally never seen before. Not from him, anyway. Only three people in the stadium full of 10,000 fans, two teams and a horde of media even knew Humphreys had considered trying this: the pitcher who taught it to him, the outfielder who saw him try it out, and the catcher who was on the receiving end of it when the new skill debuted.

But let’s go back a day. During a bullpen session, Humphreys was watching Friday night starter and fellow junior Dakota Hudson throw. Considered an elite prospect for this year’s MLB Draft, Hudson has an arsenal of pitches to choose from. One of them caught Humphreys eye: the cutter.

Casually, with no grand schemes or plans in mind, Humphreys asked Hudson to show him how he gripped the ball for that pitch, requesting a quick explanation on just how he throws it. Considering himself more of a visual learner (Humphreys picked up baseball by watching his older brother and MLB player Tyler Moore play as a kid), the willing student studied Hudson as he threw the pitch, then gave it a shot himself. To no one’s surprise, at least in retrospect, it worked for him.

Then Friday night came. In the bottom of the eighth inning, MSU was up 9-8, but had just given up a grand slam to the home team Tigers. Humphreys was called in from the bullpen, taking the mound with two outs and the bases loaded.

With four outs left to protect a one-run lead, Humphreys probably ought to have stuck with what he was used to throwing – what his coaches were used to seeing him throw. But in the back of his mind was that cutter Hudson had just taught him. Maybe he could pull it off.

Mangum and the rest of his teammates watched from the dugout, none of them knowing the decision Humphreys had just made.

“He came in the game and threw a pitch,” Mangum remembered. “I looked over at [outfielder] Mike [Smith] and I was like, ‘What was that? He doesn’t throw that.’”

IQSEZWEUHPGFEFO.20160403221723If Mangum and his teammates were surprised, it would seem LSU’s batters were, too. Humphreys retired four-straight Tigers in only 17 pitches, first ending the eighth-inning threat and second, ending the game entirely with the Dawgs on top.

“I just think it’s really neat that Reid has really come into his own,” Cohen said. “You want players to be inventive. You want them to create things on their own, because they take ownership in that. He’s really proud of himself. He’s really excited about that pitch.

“What it is,” Cohen continued, “is just a shorter, tighter, harder slider that looks more like a fastball. Just watching on film today, it’s a pretty impressive pitch for him. I just love the fact that he wants the baseball. I just love it when he walks by me in the dugout and says, ‘Hey, if you need to get three or six guys out at the end of this game, I feel really good.’”

The season as a whole has shown what Humphreys is capable of, driving runs in when he’s at the plate and keeping runs from being scored when he’s on the mound or in the outfield. Talents like his aren’t unheard of in college baseball, but they’re certainly far from common, being especially rare to be so effective in all areas.

But that cutter, that literal overnight success of a pitch, that’s the example of what makes Humphreys so special.

“You’ve gotta know Reid,” Mangum said, drawing on years of experience playing against him in little league and high school. “He’s the guy that goes out there and closes a game in the SEC with a brand new pitch without even warming up in the bullpen.

“He’s been that way all his life,” Mangum finally finished. “He really has.”

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One Response to Behind Reid Humphreys multi-faceted success for MSU baseball

  1. ezfreeze says:

    Great story! One of my favorites so far… I didn’t realize that the LSU game was his first time using the cutter…

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