By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – One of the most memorable moments in Mississippi State baseball history was a ninth-inning grand slam hit by Burke Masters in the 1990 Starkville Regional. That blast lifted the Bulldogs past Florida State and helped them reach the College World Series.
MSU is back in Omaha, and so is Masters, who was teammates with current coach John Cohen. Masters, who is now a Catholic priest in his home state of Illinois, took a few minutes to speak with the media during Thursday’s practice at Creighton University.
Q: Is it just coincidence you are teaching a class here at Creighton right now?
BM: I wish I could’ve scheduled it, but I’ve been coming out here for the last 13 years or so to teach a one-week course to seminarians at Creighton, and it just coincided with State being here. I was watching the regionals and super regional just hoping that it would work out, and it did.
Q: Tell us what you remember of John Cohen as a player at MSU?
BM: As a teammate, John was intense. A great competitor, obviously a great player, a great hitter. I remember one funny story when he was having a tough day at the plate, and John could be very intense if he struck out, so one time he had a two-strike count against a really tough pitcher. We all cleared the dugout. So he did strike out, and he came back ready to – I don’t know what he was going to do – and he looked up, and none of us were there. He started laughing. That’s a great memory I have of him. A great teammate, and he’s a winner, and we’re seeing that now. As a former teammate, I’m just very proud of what he’s doing for our program.
Q: You see that intensity in his coaching style as well, don’t you?
BM: Yes. They said he’s mellowed out a little bit. Yeah, you see that, and I think the guys really respect him. They know that he cares about them, and they know he wants to win, and he knows how to get there.
Q: Have you had a chance to interact with the players and share your memories of playing in the College World Series?
BM: A little bit. Yesterday John Cohen gave me the opportunity to talk to the team, and I just told them how proud I was as a former Bulldog player, that all of us are behind them.
We’re kind of participating in this tournament with them, and just wished them luck and told them that we were praying for them. Just so proud of what they’ve been able to do out here. I think this is the year they’re going to take it home.
Q: When you see these guys with the beards and long hair, what’s your reaction to that?
BM: I was talking with John, and he said he’s relaxed some of his rules this year. It’s a little different to see that in a Mississippi State uniform, but you can’t argue with the results. I think what we see are guys who are relaxed, and you’re going to play to the best of your ability when you’re relaxed.
I think that’s what he’s trying to instill in the guys. Even though it’s a little shocking, hey, if that’s what it takes to win, go for it every time.
Q: What’s it like being part of one of Jim Ellis’ greatest play-by-play calls, your grand slam?
BM: It’s extremely humbling. When I was honored for the 75th anniversary of the SEC and one of the greatest moments in Mississippi State history, it’s so humbling because, one, I wasn’t a home run hitter, and I’m remembered for hitting a home run. I was known as the good student, and to be remembered for something on the baseball field is extremely humbling.
Jim is such a great guy. Whenever I come back to Mississippi or get around Mississippi State fans, everybody always says they remember where they were when that happened, that they were close to where the home run was hit.
It just kind of boggles my mind that that was something I participated in. It’s extremely humbling.