Unlike most minor league baseball players, outfielder Gene Cone didn’t have to worry about paying rent during his first full professional season.
The former Gamecock, who grew up in Columbia and attended Spring Valley High School, wrapped up the 2017 season with the Class-A Columbia Fireflies on Monday.
“It’s been great for a first full season for me,” Cone said. “I’ve enjoyed it very much. I think [it's] probably been a bit easier on me being at home ... compared to other guys ... I think that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
Cone finished the season batting .219 (69-for-135) with 41 runs scored. While he was sidelined for approximately two months on the disabled list with a leg injury, the 6-foot, 173-pound Cone said he found positive takeaways from the season.
The 22-year-old finished second on the team with 48 walks in 84 games and led the South Atlantic League with 42 walks prior to his DL stint on June 29.
“It had its ups and downs,” Cone said of the season. “It was a learning experience just how I think all minor league baseball is. Just trying to keep making goals and strides to get up to the top.”
Cone was selected in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. He played three seasons at South Carolina under former baseball coach Chad Holbrook and signed with the Mets following his junior season.
In his last season at USC, Cone recorded a 31-game hitting streak — the longest in school history and the longest in Division I baseball in 2016. Coinciding with that streak, he reached base in 34 straight games.
Cone finished his junior season hitting .363 (78 for 215) with 53 runs scored and 30 RBI, while owning a .474 on-base percentage and a .498 slugging mark. He also helped lead the Gamecocks to a Super Regionals appearance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament by batting .500 with a homer and eight RBI during the Columbia Regional.
As for next season, does Cone want to stay in his hometown Fireflies?
“If I had to choose, I would hope I wouldn’t be here,” Cone said. “It’s not up to me but [all] I can do is just work hard this offseason and try to get better.”