New Ole Miss baseball coach Pat Harrison says his predecessor, Don Kessinger, was not aware his son Keith Kessinger had asked about coaching at Ole Miss.

"As far as me choosing him, Don had nothing to do with it," Harrison said.

Keith said when he told his father that he was interested, the elder Kessinger expressed disbelief that a new coach would hire the old coach's son.

Harrison said Keith sold himself.

Keith, who was playing Triple-A ball with the Chicago Cubs, quit professional baseball. He got so busy in his new job as a Rebel assistant he never resigned in writing. Kessinger got a letter this week that he was being suspended. He laughs.

"Me, who never got kicked out of a game or was suspended before, I'm suspended now," he said.

Harrison is glad that he has continued the Kessinger name in Ole Miss baseball.

"Keith is very sharp mentally, he has a good feel for the university and is a real hustler in recruiting," he said.

Kessinger, who had been in the majors on the 1993 Cincinnati Reds expanded roster, felt he had the chance to make the majors again. But, he said, "I knew I was not going to be an everyday player in the big leagues."

He said when he was traded by the Reds to the Cubs in 1994, general manager Jim Bowden told him he hated to trade him because he felt he would be a manager. The desire to coach had been planted.

Like his father, who left the baseball coach's job for a promotion into athletic administration, Keith said he would have preferred the opportunity had come a couple years later but he couldn't pass it up.

"I wouldn't have gone anywhere but Ole Miss. If I had had to leave the game I wouldn't have gone to another job," he said.

Kessinger won't be the only Ole Miss baseball coach's son connected with the team.

Harrison's son, Jonathan (J.T.) Harrison, has officially transferred to Ole Miss from Pepperdine, where he played for his father last season.

"He started 30 games for us last season at third base. He played some good defense, but he hit like a freshman," Harrison said. "We have already gone through the pros and cons last season of him playing for his dad. I am very proud to have him here."

This summer, J.T. is playing in the Jayhawk League in Kansas.

He gave his father a favorable scouting report on another Rebel signee. For the fourth straight year Ole Miss faces the prospect of having to replace a catcher and has two candidates for the job coming in, including Cosumne River (Calif.) Community College transfer Matt Ceriani, who was a late cut from the Olympic baseball squad, and Sean Eylar from Colorado.

"He was talking to me and said, 'This guy Sean was catching against us and he can really play,' " Harrison said.

Harrison leans back in his chair, looks out the window and says he really likes the change of pace from Malibu, Calif., and the hectic Los Angeles lifestyle.

"This is a major athletic program, and yet it is accessible for fans. There have been a lot of people who have just dropped in to talk about the program," he said.

Harrison knew this job was the right one for him when he started house hunting. "We were able to find a house in only two days and it is in walking distance of the baseball stadium," he said.

"I can't imagine you being able to do that in California."

Mike Talbert is a sports writer for the Daily Journal.

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