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Golson makes transition from the gridiron to the diamond

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

When the Ole Miss football team got back to Oxford after a 31-3 loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, most of the team turned their attention to the offseason and who would be named their new head coach, but freshman Senquez Golson turned his attention to baseball and the friendly confines of Oxford/University Stadium at Swayze Field.

Coming out of high school, Golson was a star on both the gridiron and the diamond, but it remained to be seen which sport he would eventually choose. At Ole Miss, the Pascagoula native was presented with the opportunity to play both sports at the college level. However, his path to Oxford hit a bit of a speed bump — a pretty big one, in fact.

The Boston Red Sox selected Golson in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player draft. With a seven-figure offer on the table, it was decision time for Golson. After weeks of contemplating his options, it looked as though Golson had made up his mind by reporting to fall football camp on Aug. 4, but the drama surrounding Golson and his future was far from over.

Negotiations with the Red Sox continued, and Golson even traveled to Boston to meet with club representatives only a day before the Aug. 15 deadline. Then the clock struck midnight and Golson was still a Rebel.

He returned to Oxford to get back to football practice, but as the season went by, people started wondering if Golson made the wrong decision after a 2-10 season. Individually, he played in all 12 games, including four starts, and totaled 16 tackles and intercepted his first career pass against Louisiana Tech. He looks to be a contributor at cornerback for the Rebels next season under new head coach Hugh Freeze.

But for now, baseball is here.

The Rebel baseball team opened full team practice Friday, and Golson was ready to get things started. However, he knew there would be a learning curve.
“Things have been going pretty good,” he said. “It’s taking a lot of patience. I was struggling at first, but hopefully, I’ll get things rolling sooner or later.”

It is evident that Golson will take a little longer to get back into the baseball groove. The other baseball players have had all year long to work and improve their game, but for Golson, that time is limited.

“I tried to hit at least like twice a week during the fall,” he said. “I’d either come over here by myself or get someone to come hit with me.”

If there is one thing in Golson’s favor, it is his natural athletic ability.

“Just as we expected, he’s very athletic, but he’s not a raw athlete,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “He is a baseball player. Watching him swing the bat, he’s just got to get more reps. He’s got to be more consistent offensively. He’s already improved defensively. Coach (Kirk) McConnell made the comment that he’s improved a lot in just one week.”

This is not surprising for someone with Golson’s speed, but according to Bianco, high school guys really don’t know how to play defense in the outfield the right way.

“One of the things, not just for Senquez, but for all outfielders is that in high school there is one head coach and maybe one assistant,” Bianco said. “There are some positions and things that are neglected, and one of those things is defensive play in the outfield. A lot of times you get outfielders that make such a big jump in their first semester because no one has really every coached them. They would just go out there and run and catch the ball.
“So, I think he’ll really improve a lot in that area. It’s hard for someone in the stands to really see that improvement, but when you watch drill after drill and watch his breaks and his angles at the ball, we are certainly glad he’s out there.”

And so is Golson. His smile can be seen from a mile away, but he also wants to get on the field.

“It’s not about the best individual players, but the players that work the best together,” he said. “If I can fit in there with the best players that work together as nine, then that’s probably what it’ll take to get me out there.”

Golson is just living the dream.