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Home Sweet Home for Gene Cone

 

Fireflies outfielder Gene Cone has breathed baseball in Columbia for almost his entire life. Cone attended schools in the area growing up, and ultimately finished as a student-athlete with the South Carolina Gamecocks. Believe it or not, there was still a small chance the outfielder could continue his playing career in his hometown. The Mets drafted the 22-year-old in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft and the opportunity to be a part of the Columbia Fireflies was a reality. That reality came true in 2017.

 

"The best thing for me is not having to spend all the rent money," Cone said jokingly. "But yeah, it has really been a great experience for me so far. I have a lot of support with my family coming to just about every home game."

 

"At first it was like, what are the chances?" said Laurie Cone, Gene's mother. "I'm very lucky. High school, college, and now back here (referring to the Fireflies) …I am enjoying every minute of it."

 

When his father, also named Gene, and his mother Laurie raised their son in the Palmetto State, they debated which sport to try first and after a while realized baseball was the one to pursue.

 

"Since the time he could basically walk, he loved any kind of ball," Laurie explained. "At first, I was thinking let him try to play soccer since my daughter did and my husband was like no way. He kind of always took the baseball when we offered it plus that was my husband's passion."

 

"He (referring to Gene) also took a liking to basketball, but once he got to high school his baseball coach told him to hang up the basketball shoes and stick with baseball," his father Gene described.

 

Gene Cone played three seasons with the South Carolina Gamecocks. He made 144 starts during this span as an outfielder. Cone produced a tremendous junior campaign. The current Firefly earned First Team All-SEC honors in 2016 and led the Gamecocks with a .363 batting average.

 

"It was awesome," Cone reflected. "I loved all of my three years there. I have no complaints. I loved all the coaches, the guys were awesome, and the university was awesome."

 

The Columbia native also documented a 31-game hitting streak - longest by any player in NCAA D I baseball in 2016.

 

"I'd like to say I tried to not pay attention to it, but once you get up pretty high on the hit-streak chart everybody starts talking about it so you really can't dodge it," said Cone. "I did my best to zone it out and other than that was just trying to do the same thing every day at the plate. Honestly, I was just trying to win during this span."

 

"This (referring to the hitting streak) was pretty magical…like almost out of a storybook," his mother Laurie said. "He had some surgery going into his junior year so he didn't practice a lot so he didn't participate in many of the fall or spring scrimmages. He wasn't a starter at the beginning of the season (in 2016) so I did a lot of praying and hoping he would get that chance once he got back."

 

Well, Gene got that chance and took full advantage once he got back into a starting role during his final season with the Gamecocks. The team finished with 46 wins in 2016 and made it all the way to an NCAA Super Regional.

 

In addition to baseball, Gene really enjoys hunting and fishing with his father when he has some time off. There was not much time for other activities or vacations because the baseball schedule was so rigorous while growing up.

 

"We traveled, but it was mainly to tournaments," his mother Laurie chuckled. "It was baseball travel. When he used to get some time off, he would hunt and fish with his dad."

 

"We started this (referring to hunting) when he was young," his father Gene explained. "He liked the excitement and challenge of it."

 

During this summer, the young Mets minor leaguer is focused on baseball. Cone has been the primary leadoff hitter for the Fireflies in 2017 and also has played all positions in the outfield.

 

"I like to be versatile," said Cone. "Wherever the coaches need me, I'd like to be able to play there. I think it is a good thing for me to be able to play all three and play them pretty well. My favorite one would be centerfield."  

 

Now with the Fireflies, Gene Cone has definitely made his imprint on the city of Columbia. He's played ball in high school, college, even summer collegiate ball (Lexington County Blowfish), and finally pro ball in the place he called home since he was just a little boy.