Joe Powell

Joe Powell swings the bat during an MSU baseball game
Photo by Bailey Black

A phone call changed everything for Joe Powell.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Powell, now a catcher for Mississippi State’s baseball team, thought his career on the diamond was over. The former backstop for the University of Cincinnati had made the decision to hang up his cleats for good. Then the Mason, Ohio, native was contacted by a bunch of Bulldogs down in Starkville prior to this season and just like that, Powell got a second chance at the game he loves.

“I started out at Cinci and dealt with a few injuries,” Powell explained. “I just got to a point where I felt like I needed to be done. I stepped away from the field for a little bit. I found myself personally a little bit and I found Jesus Christ. I got baptized and he is the only reason I’m here.

“[I’d taken] 18 months off [from baseball] and went to EMT school. I was going to be a firefighter. But I got a phone call [from MSU] and they said, ‘Hey, do you want to come play ball?’”

Using his faith and his feelings, Powell’s answer was pretty quickly an emphatic "Yes."

“I thought about it and prayed about it, and it seemed like the right decision,” Powell said. “I fell in love with the campus from the day I stepped on it here. It’s been unbelievable ever since.”

Powell has quickly found success on the field and off it since donning the Maroon and White. Through the first five games of his Bulldog career, Powell boasted an impressive .357 batting average. He also delivered a go-ahead three-run double in MSU’s midweek win over Jackson State on Feb. 27.

Off the field, Powell has quickly developed a bond with his fellow Bulldogs and felt what it means to be immediately taken into the Mississippi State family despite just jumping into the fray with them this semester.

“These guys didn’t have to be as loving and as welcoming as they are,” Powell said. “They’re all good dudes [in our locker room] and we love each other.”

It seems fitting to say for a baseball player, but life is full of curveballs. You never know what’s just around the corner.

In Powell’s case, it was the perfect opportunity to not just return to baseball, but to do so with a newfound maturity and purpose as a Diamond Dawg.

“It’s humbling for sure,” Powell said. “I knew I was an elite player when I left the game, and that was the hardest part. I finally went out there and showed it. But in some areas of our life, we have to keep growing and learning. I grew physically, spiritually and mentally off the field for 18 months. That’s why I feel more prepared now than ever to come here and do what I’m doing.”