By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In the end, a fourth season at Swayze Field was a big draw, big enough for Ole Miss to retain the services of its scrappy outfielder for one more year.
After originally agreeing to sign a professional contract with the Houston Astros, Tanner Mathis called the club’s executive and told him he’d reconsidered.
“There are too many things we’ve not accomplished at Ole Miss, personal goals and team goals,” Mathis said. “We’ve not accomplished any of the team goals as far as the big ones, winning the conference, winning 40 games, hosting a regional, hosting a super regional, getting to Omaha and winning a national championship. We’ve not done any of that.”
The Rebels completed the 2012 season at 37-26 earlier this week in the championship game of the College Station Regional.
Ole Miss last played in a super regional in 2009, the year it shared the SEC championship with LSU and Mathis was a high school senior in Lake Charles, La.
The Astros drafted Mathis in the 27th round, the 819th pick.
His return gives the Rebels a dependable upper-order hitter – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is considering dropping him down in the order – who rarely strikes out. Mathis’ late-season surge left him as the Rebels’ second-leading hitter at .358. He led the team with 50 runs scored, eight of them in College Station, and with an on-base percentage of .460.
Another factor in his decision to return was teammate Brett Huber, a relief pitcher one save away from becoming the program’s career leader, made the same decision.
Then there was the Swayze Field thing. Mathis said he “couldn’t miss out” on another year at the Rebels’ home stadium.
“I think we can achieve most if not all of our team goals,” Mathis said. “The fans deserve us to play a regional at home, at Swayze Field. The fans are so good, we need to have one In Oxford. That’s why I came back.”