He’s not in South Carolina anymore.
Cyclones outfielder Gene Cone grew up in the state’s capitol of Columbia — a soft-spoken country boy who has spent more time on the baseball diamond than just about anywhere else. He played three seasons of college ball at the University of South Carolina before hearing his name called in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball Draft this year.
It’s been a whirlwind summer for Cone — settling into his first season as a pro — but he’s done his best to take it all in stride, even getting accustomed to life in Brooklyn.
“It’s been a good experience so far,” Cone said. “I’m enjoying myself. It’s a lot of baseball of course, but no complaints. The coaches are great, the guys are great, and we have fun playing every day.”
Cone — who broke the Gamecocks’ hitting-streak record this spring — has settled into his role with the Cyclones, a jack-of-all-trades at the plate and on the field. He’s determined, however, to maintain his roots and refuses to change his walk-up music — “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver — even if his teammates make fun of his choice.
“I did it the spring season back at school,” Cone said. “I liked it and kind of stuck with it, so I just kept it rolling.”
Cone has enjoyed each one of his professional-firsts this summer, even relishing the chance to travel with the team. In fact, he said he had more jam-packed travel schedules while playing with a handful of summer leagues during college.
“It hasn’t been very bad at all for me,” Cone said. “I played in two summer leagues that were way worse than this bus-ride-wise, so this is a piece of cake for me.”
Cone recently went on a six-game hitting streak, a bright spot in a season that has been filled with first-year ups and downs. He posted a .243 batting average at the New York–Penn League all-star break, but Cone was the first to admit that making contact at the plate hasn’t been easy.
“I’m having a tough time adjusting to it,” Cone said of taking on pro pitchers. “All the guys that are run out there all are really talented and all have really good stuff, so it’s definitely a jump up from college.”
Cone went out and collected three hits against the Vermont Lake Monsters on Aug. 10 after saying that.
“I was able to put some good swings on a few balls today and a couple of them fell which doesn’t happen very often in that game,” Cone said.
As if the three hits weren’t enough, he also laid down a walk-off suicide squeeze. Although he expected to get the sign, there was a bit of a mix-up on the signs. After talking to the third-base coach halfway between third and home, Cone won the game.
The southerner was quick to point out, however, that he was just doing his job. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy — he may be a pro, but he’s still as modest as ever.
“I was just kind of happy to get the ball down to be honest,” Cone said.