Combs proud to wear No. 16 jersey at ETBU
March 17, 2017 at 4 a.m.
As a sophomore, the ETBU baseball team voted for Conner Combs to wear No. 16 in honor of James Morgan, a former ETBU baseball player who passed away in a plane crash back in 2012.
Combs, now a senior, still proudly wears that No. 16.
Getting a chance to put on that jersey every week, that No. 16, I get to look at that and understand that this game is not about me," Combs said. "This game is not about performance or stats. It's about playing hard and honoring the Lord through the way I play and giving all I have.
"That's just a reminder every time I put on that jersey that it's not about me."
He's more focused on helping out his team, which owns an overall record of 10-8 and an American Southwest Conference record of 4-2.
"I'm excited," Combs said about this season. "We've got a lot of talent and a lot of guys coming back this year. I expect to continue what we did last year and hopefully we'll get better and make some noise down the stretch."
Combs added he's taken even more of a leadership role this year.
"Just maturity, understanding the game and taking each pitch and each at bat one at a time," Combs said. "I'm still learning a little bit. I'm just trying to lead these guys on and off the field. Maybe just being a little more vocal at times and speaking up when things need to be said. As a senior, you definitely feel more comfortable doing that. You've been here three years and kind of know what coaches expect and I just try to communicate that with the guys."
"He's having to fight through some adversity," ETBU head baseball coach Jared Hood said of Combs. "Coming back as the player of the year as a junior, other teams are going to approach you a different way so he's dealing with some of that and I think he's doing OK with it and fighting through some of that adversity. He's done a nice job with it. I'm proud of him for it."
His understanding of the game comes from being around it for an entire lifetime. His dad, Pat Combs, played in the MLB and was also a member of the US Olympic team that won a gold medal in 1988.
"He was drafted by the Phillies in '88 and played until '96," Combs said of his dad. "He retired when I was 2 so I have no memory of that."
Although he doesn't remember his dad playing pro ball, he doesn't hesitate to ask his dad for advice when it comes to the game.
"He was a pitcher so he kind of understands a different side of the game, not so much the mechanics of hitting but the mental side of the game," Combs continued. "I had a rough weekend this weekend at the plate. I talked to him on the phone and he said, 'Hey man, just slow down. Take a deep breath and relax. You look a little anxious. You look a little jumpy at the plate. Just slow down, relax, and get in the cages this week and get back to what you were doing. You've got to let the game come to you."
Baseball continues to run thick in the family as Combs' younger brother, Casey, is a sophomore on the Tigers' baseball team.
"When I started playing baseball, I played on my older brother's team but when Casey started playing, he played after me so that gave me a chance to play with him at a young age, then now, playing with him, I can't explain how special that is," Combs continued. "There was a moment a couple weeks ago where we had a walk-off win against University of Dallas and I came around third to score. He was directing me where to slide and I slid head first and I got up and Casey was there and I gave him a big hug. That was something I'll never forget."
Combs and his Tigers are slated to play host to Louisiana College in a three-game series with the first one starting tonight at 7 p.m. Then Saturday the two teams are on tap for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
"Louisiana College, the series we have with them is always tough," Hood said. "They always play us hard. They've won a lot of ballgames this year already. I expect them to be athletic but we've got to come out and play the way we know how to play, we should be able to take care of business."