Despite growing up two states away in Georgia, John Holland had never been to Mississippi until he took his official visit to Starkville in March 2014.
The transfer second baseman from Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College knew during that initial trip that Mississippi State would be his new home.
“I think it was the family aspect here,” Holland said. “I met several of the guys on my visit and was getting phone numbers to text. I just felt like I’d made friends with kids before I’d actually even made the decision to come here. The coaches didn’t feed the whole recruiting spiel, it was more of a need instead of rah-rah stuff to make me feel good about myself.”
After all, Holland’s accolades already spoke for themselves.
Holland was a NJCAA All-American and the Alabama player of the year in junior college as a sophomore hitting .406 with 82 hits, four home runs and 38 runs batted in. He earned scholarship offers from North Carolina, Georgia and Auburn among others.
Upon arriving at MSU, Holland was praised by head coach John Cohen for his all-around attributes in the batter’s box, on the base paths and defensively on the diamond.
“It’s always nice to have the coaches support you,” Holland said. “That gives you that extra boost of confidence knowing that they’re behind you 110 percent. I had some big shoes to fill from Brett Pirtle but my thought process coming in wasn’t that I had to be that guy. I just wanted to come in and play the best that I could and help the team in any aspect.”
Cohen had so much confidence in Holland that he was named the Bulldogs’ opening day starter at second base. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder collected an RBI in his first MSU at bad on a sacrifice fly in the first inning against Cincinnati.
“It was cold, I remember that very vividly,” Holland said. “That was much different than my first plate appearance at any level. I knew I was coming in and had to compete for a role and it was nice to be out there.”
Holland went on to appear in 51 of the Diamond Dogs games during his first year including 46 starts. He started 40 games at second and filled in six other outings for an injured Wes Rea at first base.
Holland batted .246 with nine doubles, one homer, 27 RBIs and one stolen base.
Although it may have been Holland’s rookie year in the Southeastern Conference, it was not his first time playing at the Division I level. The Johns Creek, Ga., native played in 41 games at Florida State as a freshman in 2012. He hit .243 with eight doubles and collected 10 RBIs for the Seminoles.
“This year was definitely similar to Florida State,” Holland said. “As a freshman, I was getting spot starts here and there and fizzled out to be the (designated hitter) guy at the end of the year. Those Friday, Saturday and Sunday guys at the Division I level are going to be good coming at you. There might be a little more depth in the bullpen in the SEC.”
Holland is spending his summer playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League. He is batting .323 with seven doubles, one triple, 17 RBIs and eight steals.