COVID-19 impact on Biloxi’s Colt Keith: MLB Draft uncertainty looming large on future

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Biloxi High School baseball star Colt Keith had a plan. Whether or not that plan changes as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic remains to be seen.

Either way, things certainly aren’t going according to plan for the baseball world as a whole and the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi is ready to make a new plan if need be.

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“It’s just very chaotic. You’ve got kids in different situations. This whole virus, man, it just ruined a lot of kids and their baseball plans.” Colt Keith has always created his own luck on the diamond, but he’s still one of the lucky ones fortunate enough to have a clear path to continuing his baseball career post-coronavirus as an Arizona State signee. “Nothing really changed with Arizona State. Luckily they only had two seniors this year, so those two seniors coming back doesn’t really affect much. And I still got the same scholarship that they offered me at first, and everything is still the same with all that and the draft. Whether I go to Arizona State or I go play pro ball, I’m just thankful I get to play at the next level.”

Ever since Keith’s arrival in Biloxi prior to his junior season, he’s been revered as the most highly-coveted baseball recruit on the Gulf Coast if not the entire state. He scores as a perfect 10 according to Perfect Game and was bumped into the top 60 of Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings less than two weeks ago.

But keep in mind, this year’s first-year player draft, normally 40 rounds long, is shaping up to be a shell of its former self. “It could be 10 rounds. That’s still up in the air. But I’m hearing about five rounds. But those first five rounds are going to be the same money slots as last year. But after the fifth round they can only sign for $20,000, which is going to affect hundreds of kids around America that have worked to get drafted for this year. And then that’s obviously going to affect colleges because now they’ve got the chance to go back, and it’s just going to make a big clog up in the baseball industry.”

The trickle down effect will be felt all the way down at the junior college and prep levels, the latter being the most recent casualty of canceled seasons on Wednesday by the Mississippi High School Activities Association. “I was really just disappointed. You go through your whole high school career waiting for your senior year of high school, and it’s just a shame that I can’t spend my senior year baseball season with my teammates and my best friends and my coaches that I’ve built great relationships with. And overall, I think I was just disappointed. It just sucks.”

Keith and the Indians only got to play 11 games this season before losing the rest of it to COVID-19. So, it’s the 2019 campaign Keith will be remembered by, leading Big Red with a .527 batting average to go along with team highs in on-base percentage, slugging, runs, RBI, doubles, triples, home runs, and walks, all while striking out just eight times. “The way I play, I play like it’s my last game every game I play so I’m glad that I play that way. Because in this situation it could have been that way. I’m forever going to be like that because it could end in an instant. You could get an injury. This virus could happen and cancel the season, so I think for me and I encourage other baseball players too, always play like it’s your last game.”

Keith says it’s still too soon to tell but remains hopeful for an opportunity to give proper recognition to his senior class of 2020.

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A native of Pass Christian and a St. Stanislaus alum, Jeff Haeger comes to News 25 from right in our backyard. He most recently spent more than three years working as the sports reporter for WHLT-TV in Hattiesburg, where he provided extensive coverage of his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. At Southern Miss, Jeff was a member of the Honors College and graduated with a B.A. degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Spanish. He also wrote for USM's award-winning school newspaper, The Student Printz, where he won first place for Best Sports Story in 2013. Jeff loves to travel, and is excited to get back on the water to reunite with his family. In his spare time you can find Jeff spending time with his friends, and maybe even winning a fantasy football league. For sports stories contact Jeff at jhaeger@wxxv25.com.

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