A LION ON THE RUN
By D. E. Wheeler
Talk about getting into the swing of things. Hamilton High School senior Tracey Cockerham is into the swing of high school spring sports – literally.
Once a week, Cockerham competes for coach Terry Walters and the Hamilton golf team, which is in quest of its third straight Class 1A title. Cockerham has played a major part in each of those championships, earning 1A medalist honors both times.
After putting down his golf clubs, Cockerham dons a baseball uniform and plays at least two games during the week for coach Lewis Earnest. Prior to Tuesday’s game against East Webster, Cockerham had a .439 batting average in 17 games and a 1.53 earned run average and a 4-1 record in seven games as a pitcher.
Other baseball stats include 10 runs batted in, 12 runs scored, and only three strikeouts in 41 at bats. Cockerham has also struck out 45 in 31 1/2 innings pitched, helping Hamilton to a 12-5 record, 5-0 in Division 3-1A.
“Tracey has got a lot of potential to do anything he wants to,” Walters says.
“To be honest, a lot of times, I tell him to swing like a golfer… on low pitches,” Earnest says.
Both Walters and Earnest are quick to praise each other on the cooperation shown when scheduling events, which allows Cockerham to participate in both sports. As soon as Earnest gets his baseball schedule for each season, he sends it to Walters, who only schedules one golf match a week to avoid conflicts with baseball.
“We’re a small school and we have to work together, and coach Earnest is real good to work with,” Walters said. “Like some coaches might, he doesn’t hold it against the kids when they play a match.
“He understands that they like to play golf, too.”
Cockerham’s unique participation in two sports that require a lot of practice time is not unique to Hamilton, though. Including Cockerham, all six members of the Hamilton golf team this season are also on the baseball team – seniors Chad Pounders and Landon Whitaker, sophomores John David Hull and Brandon Kennedy, and freshman Dustin Self.
How is Cockerham able to be competitive at time consuming sports? On days when there is no game or match, after classes, he hits about 100 golf balls, then goes to baseball practice.
On weekends, Cockerham gets in most of his on the course practice time. Of course, some Saturdays he has baseball games, so that only leaves time after church on Sunday’s for 18 or 27 holes.
“It’s fun, so I don’t think about it,” Cockerham says about his schedule.
A situation last spring when Cockerham had little time to think about his busy schedule occurred during the week of the state golf tournament. As luck would have it, Hamilton was also still alive in the baseball playoffs.
Cockerham’s schedule the days of Tuesday through Thursday, May 9-11, 1995 was: baseball playoff game in Hamilton against East Union May 9; first day of state golf tournament in Jackson May 10; morning round on second day of tournament in Jackson May 11; afternoon baseball game at East Union May 11.
On that Thursday, Cockerham fired a 79 at Shady Oaks Country Club, giving him a 157 total for the tournament and 1A medalist honors. Then, after arriving about 10 minutes before game time, Cockerham managed to hit a home run in Hamilton’s 14-6 loss to East Union.
Not a story-book outcome, but a Herculean effort.
“It was fun, but it was tiring. Thursday was especially tough because we had to get up early,” Cockerham said. “At East Union, we only threw for a few minutes before the game started. I hit a home run … and I did pitch the last two outs of the game, too.”
So what is Cockerham’s favorite sport, baseball, golf, or even football (he was the starting quarterback this season)? Right now, golf seems to have the edge.
“Right now, I want to go to Mississippi State and play golf, though I haven’t talked to the coach down there yet,” Cockerham said.