Meridian Star

Sports

May 11, 2013

Making his mark

Smokey leaves lasting impression in Scooba

SCOOBA — SCOOBA – Smokey Ethridge says he has lost count of the number of times he’s been asked if “Smokey” is his real name. It’s unlikely, however, that many folks around East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus or baseball program will soon forget him.

A pre-med major from Collinsville, Ethridge was one of nearly 600 students who graduated from EMCC in three ceremonies over the weekend – and one of about 900 who graduated from EMCC in the 2012-13 school year.

    The 6-1, 200-pound pitcher would like to play baseball at the next level and is almost certain to get that opportunity. But EMCC head baseball coach Chris Rose says Ethridge will be successful regardless of which direction he takes.

    “Smokey’s just that guy,” Rose said. “You know he’s going to be successful and you know he’s going to handle his business. You don’t ever have to worry about him on the field, and certainly not off the field.”

Ethridge wants to continue his studies in physical therapy at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and also wants to play baseball for the Blazers – but someday hopes to be a pediatrician.

    “And maybe 10 years from now he’ll be the head of the pediatric division at UAB,” Rose said. “But regardless of what he’s doing, he’s going to be successful and he’s going to make everyone around him better.”

    Ethridge was known for his meticulous work ethic in the classroom and on the baseball field during his two years in Scooba. He said it came from a solid upbringing by his parents and was perhaps fine-tuned during his playing days at West Lauderdale High School – where Ethridge pitched for legendary baseball coach and EMCC Hall of Famer Jerry Boatner.

    “Coach Boatner put a lot of emphasis on doing the little things and doing things the right way,” Ethridge said. “There’s really nothing special about me, but I do try to do things the right way.”

    Flashy, Ethridge is not. “But he’s a winner,” Rose said.

    On the baseball field, Ethridge was a model of consistency in his two seasons with the EMCC Lions. As a freshman, he led the pitching staff with a 6-2 record and an earned-run average of 2.89 in picking up second-team, all-state honors. As a sophomore, the staff ace was 6-1 with a 2.86 ERA and four complete games.

    Ethridge threw a team-best 66 innings – more than twice as many as any other EMCC pitcher – had twice as many starts (12) as any other Lion, led the team in strikeouts and had the lowest ERA of any pitcher who appeared in more than one game.

    “He might not have the most spectacular stuff, but he knows how to pitch,” Rose said. “The team played hard behind him and he led us.”

    Ethridge comes from a family of athletes, many with ties to EMCC.

    Cory Roberson, a softball standout and 2012 EMCC graduate, is a cousin and a third-generation EMCC athlete. Her grandfather, EMCC alumnus Ikie Ethridge, played basketball in Scooba and is Smokey Ethridge’s great uncle.  A host of other cousins in the Ethridge family have attended EMCC, while Smokey’s father, Dane, played baseball at Meridian Community College.

    “I had a lot of family that had come here. When coach Rose recruited me, I wasn’t missing out on this opportunity,” Ethridge said.

    “It’s been a great two years … getting to know so many new people and getting to know these coaches and playing here. It was unlike any environment I’d ever been in and I really enjoyed it.”

    Ethridge participated in Relay for Life events at EMCC, was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and was heavily involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He made another big splash in April when he was named the MACJC Pitcher of the Week after reeling off three consecutive, complete-game victories in North Division action.

    He’s no slouch in the classroom, either, picking up three Student of the Year plaques in this year’s Awards Day program at the Scooba campus – in Statistics, Physics and Baseball Scholar Athlete.

Ethridge says he wants to enter the medical field because “I have always wanted to help people” and noted the small class sizes in Scooba were an asset. “The instructors actually get to know you personally. EMCC provided me with all the help that I needed.”

And Ethridge made a lasting impression around Scooba.

    “He’s the guy you root for, a genuinely good guy. He’s funny and everybody loves him. I’m a better person for having coached him,” Rose said. “If my daughter was of age and Smokey started dating her, I’d actually encourage that. He’s that good of a guy.”

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