USC hero Whit Merrifield back in Columbia, giving back

By Mandy Mitchell - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - College World Series hero Whit Merrifield is back in Columbia after his first season of minor league baseball, and you might see him on a little league field near you.

Plenty of young baseball players would love to have a swing that looks like Merrifield's. Now, he's giving those kids a chance to learn his secrets, and perhaps providing Ray Tanner with some future recruits here in the Midlands.

Will McDow, 11, loves the game of baseball and the Gamecocks. As you would imagine, he was thrilled when South Carolina won the College World Series. So thrilled, he only had two words to say. "Yes and finally," said McDow. "Since that's the first big thing South Carolina has won."

Even more exciting than that game is getting some tips about hitting from the game's hero, former Gamecock Whit Merrifield. "It's pretty cool since he got the winning hit in the College World Series just to know things from him is pretty nice," said McDow.

Whit is taking some time this off season to give hitting lessons to younger players. "I have a 10-year-old brother who is learning to play the game, and I enjoy teaching him, so this is a way I can give back to the kids who supported us and give back to the game I love," said Merrifield.

Whit spends one-on-one time with every kid who wants to learn teaching the basics of a swing that got him plenty of hits in college and a contract to play pro baseball in the Royals organization. "When you go out here and teach these kids, you are actually reiterating to yourself what you should be doing when you are hitting," Merrifield said.

Passing the knowledge on to a new generation of players who want to grow up to be a gamecock just like Whit. "It's fun," he commented. "It's fun to watch these kids grow and teach the game to them."

Merrifield's life has changed quite a bit since that game winning hit last summer. In a couple of seconds, Merrifield went from being a very good South Carolina player to a Gamecock hero.

Merrifield is now a rock star when he is in Columbia. How can he not be? He had the game-winning hit to give the baseball team its first ever national title.

Life isn't bad for Whit and the 2010 Gamecocks. "It's been a different world in Columbia for me and my teammates from getting back and all to all of the ceremonies," he said. "A week later I started pro ball."

Whit signed with the Royals organization shortly after returning from Omaha and shipped off to play for the Burlington Bees, which was the Class A minor league team for Kansas City. "We went through a stretch of 40 games in 41 days," he said. "A lot of baseball and not a lot of people at the games. The fields were not great. But it's a job now and I am getting to play the game I love."

Whit says the decision to leave school early was tough, but he feels he made the right choice. "I figured it was right to go out on a high note," commented Merrifield. "I came to school to win a national title and I could've come back to set some individual records but that's not why I came to school."

Whit will be in Columbia doing an internship which will go towards his sports management degree until spring training in April.

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