Brian Cole: He was the one who was going to make it'
By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
April 6, 2001
Two phone calls launched a long week for Greg Cole and his family.
Last Saturday about 11 a.m., the first call came from his younger brother, Brian, who was driving home to Meridian from New York Mets' spring training camp in Florida.
Then, without warning, the phone rang again about four hours later.
Funeral services for Brian Cole are set for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Meridian High School gym. Burial will follow at the Zion Hill Cemetery.
Popeye, Greg, Michael, Brian … The names of the Cole brothers have been part of the Meridian baseball scene for years. All were outstanding athletes in the Meridian High School baseball program and went on to play college ball.
But Brian was about to take it a step further. He was on track to make his mark in Major League Baseball.
Stephen Phillips, senior vice president and general manager of the New York Mets, was in Meridian Thursday. He presented Brian's parents, William Cole Jr. and Maudelene Cole, his minor league jersey and the jersey he worn in spring training.
Phillips offered condolences on behalf of himself and the Mets' organization. He announced that Brian's number 6 would be retired with the Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Class A team that he played for last year. And, Phillips said, the club's base stealing award will be renamed the Brian Cole Memorial Base Stealing Award for all time.
Greg Cole remembered how Brian was always able to hold his own with the big boys when it came to baseball.
Greg, an assistant vice president at Great Southern National Bank, became his brother's shepherd during Brian's teen years.
After graduating from Meridian High School where he was a standout in football and baseball, Brian went on to play two years at Navarro (Texas) Junior College. While there, he was named Baseball America's Junior College Player of the Year.
He was considering signing a scholarship to play baseball for LSU when the Mets drafted him in the 18th round of the 1998 summer draft.
Brian started in Rookie League ball at Kingsport, Tenn. He moved up to Class A ball in Columbia S.C., and played part of last year in Port St. Lucie. He was moved up to Class AA in July at Binghamton, N.Y., and was to have been playing there this week when the season opened.
On June 22, 1998, Brian Cole signed his first pro contract in the board room of the Great Southern National Bank. Obviously, the mood was much different Thursday in the same room when Phillips met with the Cole family.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.