By JOEL COLEMAN
Jack Kruger is bringing some friends over for dinner.
Mississippi State’s junior designated hitter, a native of Calabasas, California, is back in his home state as the Bulldogs get ready for three games in the Los Angeles area this weekend. Though Kruger is anxious to get on the field, the highlight of his trip might just come on Thursday as Kruger and his parents host the entire MSU baseball team for a meal.
“Cool doesn’t even describe it,” Kruger said. “It’s really just an amazing opportunity to allow them to come into my life even more. We spend a lot of time together on the field and off the field. We’ve gotten to know each other, but this goes even further. They get to see where I grew up, my life and my family. We’re going to get to serve them. We’re going to get to feed them. That’s a whole different level. I’m excited about it.”
Kruger’s home rests just a few miles from the sites of Mississippi State’s games this weekend. The Bulldogs will play at UCLA on Friday at 8 p.m., at USC on Saturday at 4 p.m. and then wrap up the West Coast trip with a contest against Oklahoma at Dodger Stadium at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
To fuel them for three grueling games against tough competition though, the Bulldogs will make a pit stop at the Krugers’ table.
“I think our kids are really going to enjoy that and it’s going to be really great for Jack’s parents,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. “Here’s a kid that is 2,000 miles away from home and not only does he get to come home, he gets to bring his whole team home with him.”
Kruger isn’t the only Bulldog going back to old stomping grounds. Gavin Collins is from Lake Forest. There are no planned stops by Collins’ home, but the junior infielder says he’ll have plenty of support coming from his hometown fan base while MSU is in the Golden State.
“I’ll have a lot of family and friends that I haven’t seen in awhile coming out to watch,” Collins said. “I’m really excited to see them all and show them how the SEC does things.”
Mississippi State would like to give Kruger and Collins both successful homecomings. The Bulldogs are currently riding a six-game winning streak. In that span, MSU has been clicking offensively, defensively and on the mound. Now though, the team must battle logistical challenges as they seek to keep rolling.
“Everything in terms of the timing will be a little bit different for our kids,” Cohen said. “This isn’t like professional baseball where those guys (travel across the country) all the time. They understand that. For some of our kids, probably the majority of our kids, they’ve never been in this time zone. We’re just going to have to treat this like a business trip and do things our way and just get acclimated.”
With Kruger in the fold, the Bulldogs have a guy that can share tips on how to deal with the time change. Before that though, Kruger is just ready to share a few items from the family pantry and bond with his family, both blood and Bulldog-related.
“I like Starkville,” Kruger said. “It’s a family atmosphere here but I’m ready to be back in California where I’ve been my whole life.”