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Basham, Ole Miss starting catcher, has early pop at the plate


There’s only so much the Matt Buckners and Tommy Pharrs of the high school baseball coaching world can do to prepare a gifted athlete for the next level. Brett Basham found that out, with pause for concern, as a freshman catcher at the major college level within the Southeastern Conference.

Driven to serious self-doubt by the rigors of his job as an Ole Miss catcher, Basham, a former Bearden Bulldog standout, overcame his doubts by toughening up and honing his skills.

Basham, now a UM sophomore with a red-hot bat, is starting catcher for the highly regarded Rebels, ranked No. 13 nationally.

But the sudden, sharp adjustments to major college baseball created “some doubt early-on the fall of my freshman year,” he said.

“The practices and things were so long. I was wondering if I could take it. But once I started my first game in the spring, I knew that I belonged here, that I could play.

“It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of people expect us to go to Omaha,” Basham added about the College World Series. “I really had no idea how intense it was going to be.”

Mike Bianco, UM head coach, said Basham was recruited “to be the starting catcher at Ole Miss.”

Emphasizing “Brett’s always been talented,” Bianco said the young catcher’s early struggles “were more of a confidence thing than anything else.”

An occasional starter last season, “We always thought he could do, but now he’s doing it more consistently,” Bianco said, “and he’s gotten off to a great start, especially offensively. … He’s just having a tremendous year so far.”

Sporting a sizzling .438 average and team leader in RBIs (eight) through five games, Basham’s pair of RBIs Sunday, Feb. 18 was half of the Rebels’ production in a 4-1 home win against No. 21-ranked Evansville.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the work I put into it this summer. I did some changes to my swing,” he said. “I started my hands in a different position and my [stance], I brought it more narrow.

“A lot of that [correction] had to do with coach Buckner,” Basham added about his former Bulldog head coach. “He helped me, I went and hit a lot with him this winter.

“And I hit with Brett Carroll,” the former Bearden standout and All-American at Middle Tennessee State now in the Florida Marlins’ organization. “Those two guys, they had a lot of information and I got a lot of feedback from them.”

Defensively, “He’s an outstanding catcher,” Bianco said. “He receives the ball well, handles the pitchers well, and has a tremendous arm.”

The Ole Miss skipper added Basham’s biggest improvement has been throwing out runners. Improving his football and release point, “he’s just much more accurate than he once was.”

Reflecting back to BHS, Basham said, “In high school, [defensively] you didn’t have to be at the top of your game all the time ’cause the hitting’s going to bail you out.”

But as a major college catcher, “They look to me to set the tone and be a leader back there,” Basham said, adding that Bianco and UM coaches expect him to stop every wild pitch with no tolerance for pass balls.

“That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve had to get used to, keeping every ball in front. But that’s also made me more aware, kept me more on my toes, made me become a better player.”

Saying a major college catcher has “the most responsible job on the field,” Basham said proper attitude is key. “You can’t show your emotions … that’s take a lot for me get used to ’cause I used to show my emotions,” he said. “It’s added that much more pressure.”

His goals include “hitting close” to .315 and “keeping my pass balls and wild pitches to under five.”

Ole Miss travels to Lindsey Nelson Stadium to play Tennessee May 4-6. “I can’t wait,” Basham said. “There’s a bunch of guys that play for Tennessee that I know, so I’ll be fun to get back to Knoxville to see those guys and see my family — and get to play in a stadium I grew up watching people play in my whole life.”

 

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