State’s Brent Rooker, congratulated by teammates after a home run, is among national leaders in several categories.


How strong was the competition for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy?

• Dylan Burdeaux, surely the MVP of the 44-12 Southern Miss Golden Eagles, leads the nation in hits with 97. Burdeaux also has slugged 11 home runs and 22 doubles, while hitting .372 and stealing 19 bases.

He did not win the Ferriss Trophy.

• Zack Shannon of Delta State has hit .446 with 18 home runs and 88 runs batted in and a slugging percentage of .789.

He didn’t win either.

• Both Taylor Braley and Matt Wallner have hit for average, power and also have been outstanding pitching on the mound for USM’s Conference USA champions.

They didn’t win either.

• Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, who won the award last season and had another fine season this spring, didn’t even make the list of five finalists, chosen by Major League scouts and college baseball coaches.

Rick Cleveland

None of those players won because Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker produced one of the best seasons in Mississippi’s rich history of college baseball, leading the SEC in virtually every offensive category.

Rooker Monday afternoon accepted the C Spire Ferriss Trophy.

“It means so much to win an award named after Boo Ferriss,” Rooker said after the presentation. “He meant so much to baseball. He means so much to all of us.”

Entering the SEC Tournament, Rooker is hitting .415 with 28 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs and 73 runs batted in. As gaudy as those statistics are, these two are even more impressive:

• His slugging percentage is an other-worldly .873. (Babe Ruth’s slugging percentage in 1927 when he hit 60 home runs and drove in 165 runs was .770.)

• His on-base percentage is .519. Yes, he reached first base on more than half of his at bats in 2017.

“Brent has been  a tremendous leader of our team, an outstanding worker,” State first-year coach Andy Cannizaro said. “He’s been a role model for our team. … He’s been incredible in the locker room. He leads by example.

“He’s doing things in the SEC that haven’t been done in a long time and maybe forever,” Cannizaro continued. “I can’t wait to come to the field every day, because I can’t wait to see what Brent Rooker is going to do. … He’s had a magical season.”

Monday’s was the first Ferriss Trophy presentation not attended by the award’s namesake Boo Ferriss, who died last November. A soldout crowd watched a video tribute to Ferriss. Keynote speaker Don Kessinger, the former Ole Miss and Major League standout, began his talk this way: “I’m proud to be here for an award named after Boo Ferriss. It’s not because he was a great pitcher, but that he was. It’s not because he was a great coach, but that he was. It’s because he was a great man.”

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Rick Cleveland, Mississippi Today’s sports columnist, this year was named Mississippi Sportswriter of the Year — an honor he achieved for the 10th time — by the National Sports Media Foundation. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.