Picayune native taking it one pitch at a time, gains national attention as Minor League leader in hits, batting average

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2017

Minor League Baseball is a competitive league where every athlete’s eyes are set to the major leagues, except for one, the league’s leader in batting average and total hits, Picayune native Braxton Lee of the Montgomery Biscuits.

“Being from a small town with a close-knit community, I was raised to only worry about what I can control and right now that’s to just play hard every day,” Lee said, mentioning the advice he got from his two best supporters, his parents. “I’m just taking it one pitch at a time.”

Lee has been gaining national interest as of recently after going 11 for 23 with three doubles, four stolen bases and going on a 12-game hitting streak to be named the Southern League Player of the Week for May 15-21. The Biscuits’ leadoff hitter and center fielder has a league-high batting average of .328 while tallying another league-high 60 hits so far this season.

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“This year has been different. Last year was a rough year for me, but I think that’s because I wasn’t the leadoff batter,” Lee said, a position he has played in his entire career. “Now that I’ve earned that spot, everything seems to just be falling into place.”

Lee grew up playing ball in Picayune, where he said the town’s people along with his friends and family pushed him to keep playing and strive to get better, which gave Lee something to play for as he waited two years for his chance to play Division I baseball at Pearl River Community College.

The All-District and All-State high school player went on to be selected for the 1st Team All Region and 1st Team All-State in his freshman year as a Wildcat before reaching a dream of his, to play SEC Division I baseball in Mississippi, leading Ole Miss to its first College World Series appearance in 47 years, he said. Ole Miss finished in third place at the 2014 College World Series.

Then, the speedy center fielder was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB draft and soon found his spot on the Southern League Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.

In 110 games played his first year in Montgomery, Lee had 81 hits, comprised of 12 doubles, three triples, 25 RBIs, 35 runs, a .209 batting average and .269 on base percentage.

In just 48 games this season, Lee has nearly eclipsed those stats, accumulating 62 hits, including seven doubles, two triples and two home runs, 14 RBIs, 34 runs and a .401 on base percentage as the leadoff batter.

“It’s awesome to be that leadoff guy because you get the game going quickly. I love being able to get on base to help my teammates and also hit them home if I am called to do so,” he said.

And although the Picayune native has taken the league by storm offensively, the center fielder said it’s his defense that he takes the most pride in.

“Hitting comes and goes, but defense is what I am most proud of,” Lee said, who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Florida. “It’s a simpler part of the game that I have a lot of confidence in.”

Throughout his journey, Lee said the key to his success has been his confidence, and now that he has found his groove at the plate, his defensive confidence is beginning to trickle over to his offensive presence.

Although that versatility has turned many major league heads, Lee said he is concentrated on not worrying about the future, and instead only worrying about the next pitch.

“Making it to the bigs this season would be an amazing feat, but I’m not really thinking about that. Right now I’m focused on producing for my team and when I’m done with my first at bat, I’m already thinking about the second,” he said.

The league leader in hits will look to stay ahead of the pack as the Biscuits hope to rank atop the division for the first time this season against the Tennessee Smokies at 6:35 p.m. Saturday.