Mississippi State

Coast athlete signed to play football at Mississippi State, but MLB teams have other ideas

East Central's Brad Cumbest, center, walks to the dugout after hitting a home run against Pascagoula on March 1 in Hurley. The Mississippi State football signee is getting a close look from MLB scouts.
East Central's Brad Cumbest, center, walks to the dugout after hitting a home run against Pascagoula on March 1 in Hurley. The Mississippi State football signee is getting a close look from MLB scouts. amccoy@sunherald.com file

East Central's Brad Cumbest signed to play football at Mississippi State in December, but it's becoming increasingly likely that he will have the option of choosing to play another sport once his high school career comes to a close.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end has put together a strong senior campaign for the East Central baseball team, which is 20-4 and set to play at Richland on Friday in Game 1 of a second-round series in the Class 4A playoffs.

Cumbest has been a key part of the East Central baseball team since he was a sophomore, but he's made a major leap forward in his final season with the Hornets.

With the bat in his hands, Cumbest is hitting .479 including eight homers and 30 RBIs.

As a pitcher, he has an 8-0 record, 0.56 ERA and two no-hitters. In 50 1/3 innings, he has 73 strikeouts and 12 walks.

While the right-hander has been equally effective at the plate and on the mound, it's his impressive power in the batter's box that has major-league scouts showing up to give him a look. Scouts for the Phillies, White Sox and Padres have approached Cumbest this season and he has had workouts for both the Phillies and Padres.

Last week, Cumbest swung both wooden and aluminum bats as a Padres scout looked on at the baseball field in Hurley.

It was Cumbest's first time with a wooden bat in his hands.

“I think I hit a whole bucket with a wooden bat and another bucket with the aluminum bat,” Cumbest said. “It went really good. I think I hit better with the wooden bat than I did with my own bat.”

Watching Cumbest easily clear the outfield wall with a wooden bat left a strong impression on the Padres scout.

“They were real impressed and they said they'd like to keep in contact with me,” he said.

While pro scouts have increasingly shown interest in Cumbest, he acknowledges that it would be difficult for an MLB team to convince him to give up a college football career.

“Well, it just comes down to economics,” he said. “It's going to have to be a lot of money to give up a full ride.”

If he does arrive at Mississippi State this summer as planned, he would like a chance to play both baseball and football for the Bulldogs.

“He's hoping he can,” East Central coach Bo Long said. “It'd be crazy if he couldn't. He talked to (MSU football coach Joe Moorhead) and he said that he could. That will be the biggest factor — if the football coach stays flexible.”

When asked if he considers himself a football player or a baseball player, Cumbest makes it clear that he thinks he can play both.

While no member of the MSU baseball staff has been to Hurley to watch Cumbest, Long has sent videos to interim head coach Gary Henderson's staff.

“As good as his videos are, you can't fully appreciate it until you see him in person,” Long said. “The Padres scout put a wood bat in his hands and was anxious to see how he was going to do. The scout couldn't believe that he had never swung a wooden bat before. It didn't take but a couple of swings and he was doing better with that than the aluminum. It was impressive.

“He's started for three years for us and it's been a lot of fun watching him progress as a hitter. When he was a sophomore, he couldn't recognize a curveball. He's gotten a lot better at that and made another big step forward this year.”

Along with his pop at the plate, Cumbest is more than adequate as an outfielder.

“That's what surprises everybody — how good he is defensively,” Long said. “He's way above average for a high school outfielder and of course he has more than enough arm. People don't get to see how well he moves in the outfield until they see him in person.”

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