Poole family embracing opportunity
OXFORD, Miss. -- When Ole Miss freshman Jordan Poole uncoiled on the first pitch he saw from Tyler Maloof last Friday night, the 8,000-plus fans around Swayze Field reacted simultaneously.
The blistering shot off the Georgia closer's fastball cut the thick air with ease and landed several rows up the terrace in left field. It capped quite the first start for Poole, a Calhoun, Ga., freshman that had two hits that night and three total during his introductory Southeastern Conference weekend.
Poole's home run caused reason for showers of beer in right field and a standing ovation from everywhere else. And then there was the one woman just behind the Ole Miss dugout.
When Poole's hit began its ascent, Sabrina Poole, Jordan's mother, began cheering. Then, she ran - back and forth along the grandstand, stopping just long enough to hug and high-five and witness the memorable moment.
The act was a concoction of excitement, relief and love.
"I was scared to death, absolutely scared to death when he walked up there," Sabrina Poole said. I know it's what I'd been waiting on, but I was scared to death, very nervous. I hope I didn't act like an idiot."
Jordan Poole laughed when told of his mother's response to his first collegiate home run. He wasn't shocked. He was grateful.
"I'm used to that, she will climb fences," Poole said. "She does it so much that I don't notice it anymore. It's second nature that she's going crazy, but never will she embarrass me. You have to love that. To have that kind of support in your corner is rare, and I'm appreciative and blessed."
He also didn't witness her good-hearted antics. He was in his own emotional state.
"After I hit that ball, I zoned out and don't remember where it landed, where it went and didn't feel a single stride," Poole said. "I ran too fast and caught on Miles (Hamblin). It was adrenaline and feeling so good. I remember nothing about that."
The Poole family hasn't missed a weekend series this season, and other friends were also present for Poole's first significant action of the year. Maloof, who picked up the save in Georgia's 9-8 win, and Poole know each other well. Sabrina Poole and Maloof's mother, Lisa, were college roommates at West Georgia, and Sabrina Poole sat with Maloof's dad , Keith, for most of the game that night.
When it was apparent that Maloof and Poole were soon to face off, the UGA closer's dad moved back to the Bulldog side of the stadium.
"We're such close friends, and then that happened, it was crazy," Sabrina Poole said. "Of all the times, that's how it worked out. We kind of all celebrated after the game. Jordan got his home run, and if Ole Miss didn't win, at least Tyler got the save."
OPPORTUNITY TOOK TIME: Poole has picked up four straight starts because of his energy and stick-to-itiveness.
While getting fewer than 10 at-bats through the first 30 games of the season, Poole made the most of a defensive substitution on March 30 against Southern Miss. With one out in the 10th inning, Joey Bourgeois hit a ball to the right-field wall, and Poole made a circus catch as he crashed into the wall.
Poole suffered a concussion from the collision and missed a week of game action.
"We were watching on RebelVision," Sabrina Poole said. "It wasn't as bad as it could have been. The announcers didn't catch him going into the game and kept saying it was Matt Smith on the ground. I knew it wasn't Matt. I knew Smitty had gone to first. He went to the hospital after the game, and we knew the CT scan was clear by 2 a.m."
For Poole, who played first base in high school at Calhoun and outfield during summer games with the East Cobb Mets, defense hasn't been an issue. This past week, the improvement emphasis has been on his offensive game.
With scouting reports soon to circulate, Poole will need to extend at-bats and fight off offspeed pitches early in the count to get to hittable fastballs. He's worked on that with the coaches the past few days.
"I'd love to just hit fastballs, but that won't happen," Poole said. "This isn't a perfect world. It's about shortening up swings and putting the ball in play. I've got to get used to that and work more adjustments and being prepared for more pitches than just the fastball."
With injuries and inconsistency plaguing the Ole Miss outfield this season, Poole has the opportunity to solidify consistent playing time.
"We've been all over the place out there, and Jordan is a good defender," Mike Bianco said. "He'd been somewhat inconsistent offensively, but lately this spring, he's swung it a lot better and moved in when some guys couldn't go. I'm really encouraged by what I've seen."
So Poole will likely keep getting swings and chances. Next time he produces, check out the area over the third-base dugout. Sabrina Poole may be sprinting down the aisle and cheering.
"That kind of thing is normally just for the big games," Sabrina Poole laughed and joked. "That was pretty big. It's just a great thing. We love this school and this environment. We're so happy he's here, and we're able to enjoy special moments together."