NEW ALBANY — Jacob Humbers wasn’t sure what to expect from his first summer in the Cotton States Baseball League.
“I was a little nervous coming here because a lot of guys are older than me, obviously,” the 2022 Heritage Academy graduate said. “I’m probably the youngest here.”
But that’s where Zac Butler and the rest of the Hill Country Generals came in.
The former New Hope High School wide receiver and other Humbers teammates helped the newcomer adjust to his freshman year in the New Albany-based summer league.
“Having people like Zac greet me and talk to me all the time makes me feel like home,” Humbers said. “It’s a pretty cool vibe here.”
So far this summer, Humbers and Butler have been the Golden Triangle constants leading the Generals to a 12-3 start in the CSBL Collegiate Division. The team also includes seven of Butler’s teammates at East Mississippi Community College.
“It’s been a good summer,” said Generals coach Jeffrey Cook, former head coach of Columbus High School. “The guys played pretty well. The East Mississippi guys and the Golden Triangle guys played really well.
Humbers and Butler are joined by former West Point wide receiver John Austin Ricks, now at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
The roster of generals includes 13 players from northeast Mississippi as well as Cameron Matous from Southaven; Elijah Robinson of Cordova, Tennessee; and Evan Radford and Alex Wilson of Hoover, Alabama.
But not everyone was available for Friday night’s game against the Golden Triangle Jets, whose name is misleading: The 2022 Jets have no players from the area.
And they had almost no players at all.
Jets coach Brandon Montgomery, the CSBL’s all-time leader in games played, added another appearance to the ledger by filling first base for five of the contest’s seven innings.
The Generals, meanwhile, were down to nine players, including two players called up from the CSBL high school league.
Radford, who transfers to EMCC from Southern Miss, is the Generals’ leading hitter with a .500 clip, but missed Friday’s game. Peeko Townsend, the crew chief with five home runs, was on vacation. UT Martin’s Caleb Hobson, hitting .405, was also absent to attend a pre-draft camp.
That added to a 9-4 victory for the Jets, who took the lead on a pair of errors in the fourth inning and added a three-run brace in the sixth.
Considering their roster attrition and torrid start, the Generals certainly weren’t deflated by the loss.
“We had a really good start to the year and we were hoping to continue,” Butler said. “We were shorthanded tonight so we did our best.”
Butler had just 13 at-bats in his first season at EMCC and said having more CSBL reps has been good for his game.
Hitting a cool .469 after a 2-on-2 performance with two walks on Friday, the former New Hope standout admitted the competition in New Albany was just “good,” but it can still help.
“I haven’t really played a lot this year during varsity prom, so it’s good to come here and get some ABs and play in the field and throw,” Butler said.
His EMCC teammates joining him on the Generals include Radford, first baseman Carson Gault — hitting .391 with a team-high 17 RBI — and Cook’s son Jackson, who has a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings pitched.
Butler hopes the Lions can improve on their 28-19 record in 2022, which came with an appearance in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
“I hope we win everything,” he said. “We did quite a bit the year before, so hopefully we can come back and go a bit further this time.”
Humbers, meanwhile, is preparing for his freshman season at Meridian Community College. He transferred from Caledonia High School to Heritage Academy ahead of the 2022 season, playing his final high school campaign with the Patriots.
Much like his transition to New Albany, it wasn’t easy – at first.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Humbers said. “I just wanted to be treated well, so I just went there. I stayed there and felt like home, honestly. It was really cool to see how they opened their arms to me and I just felt like one of them.
The versatile Humbers is listed as an infielder and pitcher on the generals site, but played both left and right field on Friday. Hitting .314 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings on the mound, he says he wants to “go down there and win” in his freshman college season.
Just like he’s done with generals so far.
“The first game, I knew we were going to be pretty good,” Humbers said. “We all come here and have fun. That’s really the best part – come here and have fun and play some good ball.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.