OMAHA — On a roster full of Bulldogs, you will find one Mule.
This name is reserved for two-sport athlete Brad Cumbest. This week you will find him starting in left field at the College World Series for Mississippi State University. Come Fall, you will find the junior suited up as a wide receiver at Davis Wade Football Stadium.
Regardless of sport he plays, he is known by one name.
“Everybody calls him Mule,” MSU Baseball Coach Chris Lemonis says.
The left fielder from Hurley, Miss. said he didn’t choose the nickname. It was bestowed upon him at the age of four or five when his best friend’s dad started calling him Mule at T-ball practice.
“I was always stronger and bigger than everybody so they just called me Mule,” Cumbest says.
Cumbest, who will turn 21 in July, is now 6'5" and 250 pounds. Although his size makes him intimidating, he is as polite as they come.
I first met Cumbest at the College World Series in 2019 when I was 11 years old. I was talking to a media photographer who dared me to go over to the dugout and ask for the Mule. Determined to look brave, I headed over to the group of Bulldog players and yelled out for Mule. I may have looked confident, but I was shaking in my Jordan hi-tops. I wasn't sure who or what to expect.
That’s when the larger-than-life player jumped to his feet and came over to me.
"Hi Ma'am how are you doing?" he asked with a strong Southern accent. We spent the next few minutes talking about everything from the weather to school. Through our conversation it was easy for me to see how happy and relaxed Cumbest is.
Lemonis says Cumbest’s positive attitude helps keep the whole roster upbeat.
“He never shows up in a bad mood,” Lemonis says. “He’s probably in too good of a mood. He’s kind of the life of the party with our team.”
Cumbest said the key to being happy is simple, and it starts when he gets out of bed.
“You've just got to wake up with a good attitude,” he says.
Cumbest is well-known to MSU fans for his positive interactions with young fans. There are many Twitter posts showing him warming up before a game by playing catch with kids in the stands. Cumbest has even been known to throw foul balls to kids who were cheering for the opposing team.
“If the kids came out there and showed up for three hours at a time to watch me play I should at least just sign a ball or throw a ball with them in the outfield,” he says.
Cumbest, who attends MSU on a football scholarship, has continued to play both sports at the collegiate level because they are so different from each other.
“In football there is more than just one of you on the field,” he says. “Baseball, when you are at the plate, it’s all on you, a cat-and-mouse game between you and the pitcher.”
The feeling of success in both sports makes the extra effort of playing two sports worth it. Cumbest has five home runs and 18 RBIs in 2021. This past football season, as a redshirt sophomore, he appeared in seven games with one start (on Oct. 31 at Alabama) and snagged a 10-yard touchdown reception—his first and only one so far in college—on Dec. 19 vs. Missouri.
"Catching a touchdown is pretty cool," he says with a smile. "But getting a hit at Dudy Noble Field is pretty cool too."
Cumbest, who is eligible for the MLB draft this year, says he isn’t thinking too much about if—or when—he will have to choose between baseball and football.
“I’ll keep playing both until I hit one road,” he says.
This is the second time Cumbest has played at College World Series. Lemonis says he is looking forward to seeing what the junior, who is batting .333, achieves here in Omaha.
“He’s playing good right now, so we are excited to see him play here,” Lemonis says.
Cumbest says he isn’t thinking about his personal goals for College World Series, only about helping his team bring the glory of winning a baseball national championship to Starkville for the first time. In the fourth inning of the Bulldogs' World Series opener Sunday, Cumbest ripped a two-out RBI triple, which ended up being the deciding run in their 2–1 win over Texas.
“There are no individual goals in this,” he says. “It’s just a team goal to win the whole thing.”
With the advantages of the Mule’s strength and positivity on the MSU roster, the Bulldogs have as good a chance as any teams to win it all.