Butch Thompson interview

butchthompsonCoaching journey…

I’m from Mississippi so it’s been pretty neat being here at Mississippi State. It’s kind of come full-circle, because I’m from Amory, Mississippi. I’ve just been fortunate to be around great people, I know three of the four head coaches I’ve worked for have been national coaches of the year.

The first one was Brian Shoop at Birmingham Southern, who I probably spent ten years with as a player and a coach. He’s now an assistant coach at UAB. He’s probably been the biggest influence on my life- not just with baseball, spiritually as well- he’s been kind of like a dad to me. I think he’s one of our best coaches in the country. He prepared me, and when we won the 2001 NAIA National Championship, I had the opportunity to go to Georgia with David Perno, and that was all because of Coach Shoop and Daron Schoenrock, who was my pitching coach in college.

I was at Georgia through 2005 and had a chance to go be with Tom Slater at Auburn from 2006-8 before coming to Mississippi State with John Cohen.

You can trace everything back to one degree of separation: John Cohen played at Mississippi State and Brian Shoop was an assistant at that point under Ron Polk. John and I had never worked together until I got here, and I’m just thankful he gave me the opportunity to come back home.

Every “break” that I’ve caught is from being around really good people, because of relationships and people being good to me. In business or any other profession, it’s about being around people that are better than me. Les Brown is a great motivational speaker, and he said “if I’m the smartest man in the group, I need to get a new group,” and I’ve never been the smartest in my group!

Pitching philosophy…

Personnel’s number one. I think number two is the level of your competition. Another unique thing we have here at Mississippi State is our park, which is very large and a park that is really conducive to developing pitchers. Our first couple years here when we were trying to define our identity we were fine at home, but those balls were carrying out of the park when we went to Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and LSU!

I have not invented anything. I saw a great article last week that was on Rick Peterson, who is the pitching coordinator with the Orioles. They’re calling that string that they put across home plate for bullpens (18 inches off the ground) “.193” because that’s the batting average for balls put in play at that contact level.

Once you get past your personnel, your opponents and your park, I just really went on this journey with guys and kept learning from all our pitchers, “what’s the single biggest thing that we can add value to their game” and not be like I had done in the past where I’d take a freshman and I’d make him worse, kind of regress before they progress. We brought them here for a reason and it’s not always to change their mechanics and all that stuff. I think it’s taking their current sight level [in terms of pitching location] and making it lower, kind of like limbo. They can throw the ball at mid-thigh in high school and get away with it, so there’s never really any urgency to pitch lower in the zone. If we could just improve their ability to throw the ball lower in the strike zone, then that would be the single biggest blessing we could give them once they reach campus.

On drills…

It all evolves and changes; I picked that up from John [Cohen]. I’d rather give guys a “prescription,” whatever they’re “ailment” is, they need a specific prescription. I use some concepts I got from Ron Wolforth- we really like to READ THE REST