Mississippi's Tim Elko (25) celebrates as he runs toward home, as he was driven in by Kevin Graham against Oklahoma during the first inning during the first game of the NCAA College World Series finals, Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

We are now nearly half a year past the Ole Miss baseball miracle, and Tim Elko, the heart and soul of those Rebels, still struggles with processing the entire experience.

“It’s sunk in a little bit, but it’s still surreal in many ways,” Elko said in a phone conversation Thursday. “We got the championship rings a while back and that somehow made it a little more real.”

Rick Cleveland

Something else has happened to make it even more real – and to bring back a flood of cherished memories. That’s the publication of two books – “Champions” and “Resilient Rebels,” which commemorate one of the most remarkable sports turn-arounds in this writer’s memory.

Elko, who wrote the foreword to “Champions,” will be featured at a book signing Saturday at Lemuria in Jackson. 

First, about the two books:

  • “Champions” is a lovely coffee table book, published by Neil White’s Nautilus Publishing Company of Oxford. Much of the book is the work of photographer Joshua McCoy, who followed the Rebels throughout the season and produced some of the most compelling sports photography imaginable. White, himself the author of the remarkable memoir “Sanctuary of Outcasts” designed and edited the book, while Jeff Roberson, Mitch Praxl and Alex Sims combined to provide the text. Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco wrote the introduction.
  • “Resilient Rebels” is the work of Oxford writer Chase Parham and, as the subtitle suggests, details “Ole Miss baseball’s remarkable path to a national title.” In this case the adjective “remarkable” does not overstate at all. Ole Miss was the last at-large team selected for the 64-team field and then won 10 of 11 NCAA Tournament games, sweeping Oklahoma in the best of three championship series. The Rebels won 20 of their last 26 overall. Former Major League Baseball star Donnie Kessinger, a two-sport All American at Ole Miss, provides the foreword to Parham’s book.

White and Parham both will join Elko at Lemuria for Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. book signing. (Only books, no memorabilia, will be signed.)

This will not be Elko’s first experience at book signing. He was at Square Books in Oxford on Oct. 14 when the books debuted there. That was the Alabama football weekend, the same weekend the Rebels received their championship rings. You probably won’t be surprised to learn the line to get books signed that day went out the store’s doors and wrapped around much of Oxford’s Square.

“I had a blast,” Elko said. “It was just so much fun to share that experience with so many people. I couldn’t believe how long that line went.”

The signing was supposed to last two hours, White said, but went much longer. Bianco had to leave early to get to that afternoon’s fall practice. But Elko stayed until every last book was signed.

These days, Elko works out most mornings at Oxford-University Stadium with other former Rebels now in professional baseball who live in the Oxford area.  

“Just working to get stronger, trying to get better,” said the easy-going and always-friendly Elko, who last summer began his professional career in the Chicago White Sox organization, hitting five home runs in 96 at bats at the Class A level. That was after a senior season in which he hit 24 home runs and drove in 75 for the national champs.

Switching to wooden bats is a difficult adjustment for many college players-turned-pros, but the bull-strong Elko apparently made the adjustment with relative ease.

“I love the feel and the sound of a wooden bat,” Elko said. “No problems here.”

The guess here is that when you have overcome what Ole Miss baseball did during the spring of 2022, everything seems a little easier.

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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.