PEARL, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi State product Brent Rooker could flat-out hit when he was the Bulldogs.
But for all of his success, including the SEC Triple Crown, there were still many who didn’t think Rooker could make it as a pro.
So far in his minor league career, the 2016 first round pick of the Twins is proving the skeptics wrong. He leads the Southern League with 73 RBI to go with 21 home runs and a .265 batting average.
“My only goal coming into the year to make sure I was a better player at the end of the year than I was at the beginning of the year,” Rooker said at Trustmark Park in Pearl this week. “I feel like I am that right now.”
His former coach and athletic director, John Cohen, was in Pearl Tuesady for the first game of Chattanooga’s five-game series against the Mississippi Braves.
Cohen says Rooker’s intelligence is a big reason for his success.
“He’s such a smart young man,” Cohen said. “I think that’s the thing, the common bond for all these guys who get to this level. they have to understand their game.”
Rooker says playing in the SEC also helped him make the transition to pro ball. However, he says there is one big difference between the two.
“It’s when you get into the back end of the bullpen and every team in Double-A runs out a guy throwing 96,97,98,” Rooker said. “That’s kinda the separator.”
The 23-year-old watched from afar this summer as his colleg team made a run to Omaha, a run that was led by interim head coach Gary Henderson.
“He did a fantastic job doing that, obviously. That shows with the amount of success they had with him at the helm,” Rooker said. “I think he’s a really special human being and a really special coach and he did a fantastic job for our program.”
Another big reason for MSU’s success this past season was the team’s outfielder, Jake Mangum. Next year will be his senior year. Despite being drafted in the late rounds two years in a row, Rooker says his former teammate won’t disappoint as a pro.”
“They’re gonna get probably, the best senior signing in the draft next year, there’s no doubt about that,” Rooker said. “He’ll be the best senior baseball player in the country next year. He’ll put up Jake-like numbers like he does every year. He’ll be the best player on the field at all times, like he has been his entire career.”