Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Small towns produce big-game athletes for Southeast Baseball

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Southeast Missouri State's baseball team is made up of many players that are from small towns. What is it like being a small-town kid and going on to play Division 1 baseball?

Senior right-handed picture Justin Murphy, senior right-handed picture Jared Waldhoff and junior infielder Tristen Gagan are a few of Southeast's baseball players who came from small towns and have found success playing baseball and working toward a degree.

Murphy, a senior from Kingdom City, Missouri, comes from a town with a population of 129. Murphy went to North Callaway High School, graduated with about 85 students with the total school population around 300. Murphy played junior college baseball at Mineral Area Junior College before coming to Southeast.

"It was a lot bigger than what I was comfortable with. It felt big to a kid coming from where I'm from with a population of 129, but it was still a small school," Murphy said.

Murphy did not have a lot of offers out of high school to play baseball, he had a couple of junior colleges and some local Division 2 schools, but he decided junior college would be the best route for him. Murphy was looking to grow and get used to collegiate games and become a better player. Southeast gave him a call and he ended up in Cape Girardeau.

Murphy had a friend who played baseball at Southeast when he was a junior in high school and that friend said he loved playing at Southeast. This played a big role when Murphy signed at Southeast.

"There are not a lot of people from my high school that go on and play college sports," he said.

Murphy credits his success to the support of the university and the city of Cape Girardeau.

"It's nice knowing that the city supports our baseball and they come out to see us play, the new field is nice with a great playing surface, we could not thank all the people that are involved to make this a successful program," Murphy said.

Waldhoff, a senior from Teutopolis, Illinois, is another small-town player, coming from a town with a population of 1,565. Waldhoff went to Teutopolis High School and played junior college baseball at Kaskaskia College in Centralia, Illinois, prior to coming to Southeast.

"It's out in the middle of nowhere, so the transition from there to here was kind of easy," Waldhoff said.

Waldhoff had some looks from several Ohio Valley Conference schools and he knew it was a conference he could have success in. One of the biggest factors for Waldhoff was the fans' support and the city support, much like Murphy.

"There are a lot of great teams in the OVC, but they don't get the fan support that we do. Also, the facilities are first class, so it was huge for me in making the decision to come to Southeast," Waldhoff said.

"We have a lot of guys that are really good athletes that come from my area," Waldhoff said.

Waldhoff is the first male to go to college on his dad's side of the family. Coming to college and being able to play baseball are great accomplishments Waldhoff has achieved.

"I think the success here at Southeast is because of all those that came before me, and I hope that the guys that come after me have the same mentality that none of this would be possible had it not been for the guys before me," Waldhoff said.

Gagan is from Ramona, Oklahoma. He played at Caney Valley High School with a population of 544 and he graduated with a total of 44 students. Gagan played his junior college baseball at Northeast Oklahoma A&M. Gagan had never heard of Southeast before being recruited to come play baseball. He did research on the school and the baseball program, which he was sold on and was excited about coming here to continue his collegiate career.

"There are not too many college scouts that come through to watch 2A baseball, so I was always worried about getting my chance," Gagan said.

Gagan admits he put in the effort to get himself to junior college, had a workout and they liked what they saw.

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