ATHENS – It was quite the odd scene. I’m driving west down Pinecrest Avenue Thursday morning when I encounter two people standing in the road and have to stop. Turns out they’re Georgia baseball players and one of them is tossing a pair of cleats, tied together by the strings, up in the air trying to get them to land on a power line.
They move out of the way to let me pass, and I drive by extremely slowly. As I do, I recognize the blond-headed kid tossing the cleats. I turn around and come back through as he continues to fling his shoes skyward.
He confirms that he is Chase Adkins. Adkins is a junior, a right-handed pitcher and an SEC starter for the Bulldogs. I ask him what he’s doing.
“Hanging up the cleats,” he said.
“Does this mean you’re not coming back?” I ask.
“No,” he insists. “Just messing around.”
“Is this some kind of tradition?” I ask.
“Not that I know of,” he says.
The reason I was coming down that particular street next to Foley Field at that time is I’d heard that head baseball coach Scott Stricklin was meeting with his players Thursday morning. Some of my sources took that to mean that maybe Stricklin was resigning.
He was not. Or is not.
Sitting in a Foley Field parking space with my hazards flashing, I texted the Bulldogs’ skipper of the last four years is he was available to talk. He said he wasn’t because he was in player meetings all day until at least 6 p.m.
“This means you’re returning, correct?” I asked.
“Yes,” Stricklin replied.
He said he might be available to talk afterward, which I hope to do.
As I wrote earlier today, Stricklin is in some trouble as Georgia’s coach. He has two years remaining on his original six-year contract with UGA. The Bulldogs just finished 12th in the SEC with a 25-32 record and 11-19 in the SEC. For those keeping count, he’s now 32.5 games below .500 in SEC play in his four years as Georgia’s baseball coach.
As for the player meetings, that is standard operating procedure. The head coach always meets with the players, seniors first and then on down, as soon as possible after the season ends. There’s a lot to figure out in college baseball, like which upperclassmen intend to come back and which plan to turn pro, what their summer-ball plans are and what the coaches think they need to work on going forward.
Based on the fact I counted four players of cleats hanging from the power line across Pinecrest Avenue, I’m guessing at least four juniors or redshirt sophomores have decided to turn pro after the season. Despite his denials, I suspect Adkins is one of them. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound junior from Powder Springs was a in Georgia’s SEC rotation all season, making 15 appearances with a 6-7 record and a 3.95 ERA, second among the regular starters.
That doesn’t make Adkins a bad guy. Again, that’s standard operating procedure for college baseball. He has to seriously explore pro baseball now while he has the bargaining power of being able to return to college baseball.
Keegan McGovern, an outfielder and team captain and one of the Bulldogs’ best players, will have to make a similar decision, too. And several others. Those four pair of cleats belong to somebody.
In the meantime, it appears the big decision has been made. Stricklin will be back for a fifth season as the Bulldogs’ baseball coach. At least that’s what he thought as of late Thursday morning.
We’ll keep an eye on the power lines for you.