Campbell University head baseball coach Justin Haire remembers finding Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins when he was playing at Louisburg College, and while the coach is proud of Mullins’ success in Baltimore this year, he’s not surprised his professionalism and hard work have paid off.
Haire recalled recruiting Mullins hard before the outfielder chose to transfer to the school for the 2015 season. Mullins played junior college ball at Louisburg (N.C.) from 2013-2014.
“I was the assistant at the time and our other assistant, Rick McCarty, was recruiting Cedric and he came on campus for a visit — awesome kid, quiet, confident, from the Atlanta area,” Haire said on Glenn Clark Radio June 22. “We made him a good offer he was one of those kids like, ‘Hey Coach, I appreciate it, but I’m still going to keep my options open.'”
Mullins went through the recruiting process and eventually committed to Campbell (N.C.), hitting .340/.386/.549 with 34 extra-base hits in 56 games for the Fighting Camels in 2015. Prior to that, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound outfielder wasn’t on the radar of recruiters coming out of high school or at Louisburg, according to Haire.
“He wasn’t a guy that the coach from Louisburg was calling us and saying, ‘Hey guys, this guy is going to be a first-rounder,'” said Haire, who became Campbell’s head coach after the 2014 season. “It was, ‘Hey man, this is a good player. He’s really good defensively and has got a chance to run and do some different things.'”
Mullins’ time at Campbell exceeded the initial expectations of his coaches, but Haire knew Mullins was going to be a high-level professional ballplayer and make it to the big leagues shortly after Mullins got on campus. He was drafted in the 13th round in 2015 by the Orioles.
“When Cedric came in and went through the fall and [you] just saw him defensively in center field … you knew it was special,” Haire said. “He could’ve left Campbell and walked into Camden Yards and played center field for the Orioles in the summer of 2015 after he got drafted. … When you have guys that you can feel can do something at the big-league level straight away, you know that you got something special.”
Haire spoke about the hardships Mullins has overcome during his career, including being demoted all the way to Double-A Bowie in 2019. Mullins’ makeup allowed him to make adjustments, according to Haire.
“I think the biggest thing about Cedric is that he’s really smart,” Haire said. “He’s really intelligent across the board, was a 4.0 student, could have gone on and done whatever he wanted to had baseball not worked out. … I think he’s got some humility and a work ethic about him.”
This season, Mullins is hitting .311/.380/.536 with 13 homers and 28 RBIs entering play June 28. The question being asked in Baltimore by Orioles fans is what Mullins is long term. Despite Mullins’ outstanding play having come in a small sample size to this point, Haire believes Mullins is truly capable of sustaining it.
“You look and you try to project five years, 10 years. Is this guy a perennial in the conversation for being an All-Star? I don’t know, man. That’s a great question,” Haire said. “I think that in big-league baseball, to be consistent for 10 years is really challenging.”
“I’ll tell you this about Cedric Mullins,” Haire continued. “He’s going to play All-Star-caliber defense every single day, he’s going to put pressure on the opposing defense every single day and he’s going to show up and be a professional every single day. Because of those three things, I think you’re going to see him be a consistent contributor at the big-league level for a decade or more.”
One thing is certain — Haire is proud of the man Mullins has become since Campbell recruited him in junior college.
“We’re super proud of that guy,” Haire said. “He’s a special person.”
For more from Haire, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Bennett Scarborough