A feel good story for college baseball’s short season…
Redshirt freshman, Roderick Coffee was slotted into the ninth spot in the lineup to start the 2020 baseball season for Texas Southern University in his first ever collegiate baseball game against New Mexico State University.
He blasted two home runs that day in Las Cruces, N.M. He hit another the next day. Then, in the last game of the four game series, Coffee belted his fourth round tripper in the series finale.
His first weekend of College baseball, Coffee totaled four home runs, seven runs batted in and was hitting over .700.
Because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that shut down all of collegiate sports, Coffee ended the season with 7 HRs, 15 RBIs, a .830 slugging percentage and a .383 batting average.
Coffee signed a national letter of intent to play at Texas Southern his senior year of high school. Things did not look promising after transitioning to Division 1 baseball at TSU and he was redshirted.
Coffee was given several options during his exit meeting at the end of the 2019 baseball season. Head coach Michael Robertson wanted him to get more development and to consider JUCO ball for the season.
Coffee considered moving on to another DI baseball program but Coffee’s parents were very impressed with the academic programs at Texas Southern and wanted him to continue at the University.
After looking at all the components, the one thing Coffee did do well is attend and successfully completed all scheduled courses, receiving a 2.94 Grade Point Average and passing 27 credit hours.
At the end of the 2019 season the team was going in a different direction and Coffee was not there yet. Robertson is a blue collar worker and Texas Southern baseball is a tough program. His academics is what kept Coffee in the program.
Texas Southern’s first commitment in 2019 thought that, given the opportunity, he could play better than the kids on the field. Because of his redshirt status, as the team traveled to away games, Coffee had to stay on campus.
He became a disciplined student, spent more time in the classroom, but less on the field. Discipline is key at TSU according to coach Robertson “that is what we teach at TSU.”
After fall ball and up until the day before the season opener against New Mexico State, Coffee was somewhat of an after thought according to Robertson. “I had a tough decision to make with our outfield and Coffee was best choice to start in left field.”
Going into the 2020 season, no one saw the potential he had except his parents who have been a major influence on his life.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, both Southern University and Louisiana State University (LSU) had Coffee on their recruiting radar. Instead, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound right-hander wanted to play out of state considering neither Southern nor LSU gave Coffee a scholarship offer.
Based on 2020 statistics, Coffee is ranked as the No. 3 freshman hitter in the NCAA according to DI Baseball.
Coffee finished fourth in the SWAC in batting average, first in slugging percentage, ninth in on-base percentage, eighth in runs scored with 13 and first in home runs with 7. Coffee ranked sixth nationally in home runs in the nation and eighth in slugging percentage.
Not bad for a redshirt freshman who just wanted an opportunity to show what he can do.
It was the result of hard work for the Texas Southern player. Also known for his stellar defensive work, he ran the bases well and hit for average. In Coffee’s sophomore year in high school, he was a member of the 2017 Louisiana Class 5A State Baseball Championship Team
Coming out of high school, Perfect Game’s scouting report on Coffee analysed him as a slender young build, long limbs, lots of room to get stronger, still very young. Right handed hitter, spread straight leg stance, big leg kick front leg trigger with pretty consistent timing, loose swing, has some uppercut in his plane and will top spin the ball when squared, syncs his upper and lower half and lower half well in his swing, young athlete with hitting tools to develop, moves well to the ball in the outfield, developing arm strength. Very young player with athletic ability and promise. Good student.
Working with Robertson and his coaching staff, they’ve worked really hard on creating elevation, lift in his swing.
If you go back and look from that point forward from when Coffee first stepped foot on campus, to the start of this season, that’s indicative of what his power looks like, whether it manifests itself in home runs or slugging percentage is irrelevant.
He hits the ball really hard and if the coaches can get him to hit the ball really hard in the air, then the baseball program has a chance to tap into something special. The rest of his skills can be off the charts.
But the process was far from easy.
Coffee was not sure of why he was redshirted but that is how it ended up and he’s glad he went through it.
Asked what is the difference between how this season started and the redshirt year? Coffee stated “he did not change his game, but credits Coach Robertson for playing him this season compared to last year when the Tigers had a stacked outfield.”
As a freshman, “it’s been a challenging experience, but it’s been great at the same time,” Coffee said. “I’m really trying to have a learning approach to it, just trying to learn as much as possible and continue to grow knowing that I have to be ready and not worry of failure.” Coffee’s teammates have responded telling him “to keep working.”
With the season cut short, Coffee is doing his school work and working in the batting cage.
Ranked as the No. 3 freshman hitter in the nation, Coffee was pretty excited to see that.