Feb. 3, 2011
By Jon Cooper
The pressure is daunting for an incoming freshman, regardless of how talented a kid is, and this kid is quite talented.
He could have gone to play professionally, as he was selected in the June Draft, but saw the opportunity to start at Georgia Tech, as the previous starting shortstop left for the pros, one of 10 Yellow Jackets picked off the roster by the Major Leagues.
That could describe Mott Hyde, incoming freshman sensation (the 10th-ranked recruit in Georgia and a top-100 talent according to Perfect Game), from Calhoun High School, who is the odds-on favorite to start at short when Georgia Tech opens its season in 14 days, hosting Kent State.
It could be, but that’s not who we’re talking about. Actually, we’re referring to Derek Dietrich, who Hyde replaces
Coincidence? Maybe. But it answers the question of how Georgia Tech will break in a freshman shortstop — the same way it did three years ago.
“He’s just got to go play. Any of these freshmen that are replacing somebody they still have to be themselves. They’ve just got to go play the game,” said Head Coach Danny Hall. “The great thing about baseball — I don’t care if it’s the Little League level, the high school level, the college level or the pro level — the game doesn’t change. It’s still the same. The plate’s the same width, the bases are the same distance, the mound’s the same distance. So just go play the game. Go do as you’ve always done from the time you started playing.”
Hyde gets it. He didn’t choose Georgia Tech over the Toronto Blue Jays, who chose him in the 44th round, to compete against the ghost of Derek Dietrich. He’s at Georgia Tech to play baseball at the highest level. If there is a ghost against whom he’s competing, it’s the ghoul of NCAA Tournament Regionals Past, which has reared its ugly head at the last two years, rudely and unexpectedly eliminating the Yellow Jackets on their home field.
While at Calhoun, Hyde, whose given name is Daniel Mott Hyde (the middle name is a nickname of his dad’s), was a four-year letterman and two-year captain, and led the team to the 2010 State Championship. As a senior he hit .464 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs. Those numbers were actually DOWN from his junior season when he hit a gaudy .547, with 20 homers and 67 RBIs. He also was a three-year letterman and a one-year team captain of Calhoun’s basketball team. (For the record, that’s three years and one year more as captain of hoops stardom than Dietrich).
Hyde is eager to continue his baseball excellence as part of Tech’s dynamite freshman class. He recognizes the long road ahead and the expectations, but is ready to attack it head on.
“We’re all in it for the same thing. We’ve got to get used to it,” he said. “But I think this freshman class brings a lot of energy to the table and I think we should be fun.
While Hyde sees the Majors as his ultimate goal, he sees himself fulfilling a dream by getting a chance to play at Tech.
“I came here a lot of times,” said Hyde, who admitted he used to picture himself playing on the field at Russ Chandler Stadium. “It’s a great environment. I love being here. I’m only like an hour away from home. This is the perfect place for me.”
And the 2011 season, which is only two weeks away?
“I haven’t really thought about it yet. I’m just thinking about the first game. I never really think ahead,” he said.
Dietrich, himself, couldn’t have said it better.