Coach Butch Thompson (above) was hired on Thursday to lead the AU baseball program.
Auburn, Ala.--If you want to understand how well respected Auburn's new baseball coach Butch Thompson is around the game all you have to do is talk to the people who have played for him, worked for him and even worked against him in college baseball.
One of the top assistant coaches in the SEC for almost two decades during stints at Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State, Thompson was named Auburn’s head baseball coach on Thursday and former Tiger pitcher Chris Dennis said it’s a move that will pay dividends in the short term and long term for the Auburn program.
“He’s a really good coach and has coached in a bunch of different spots,” Dennis said. “He’s a great recruiter. He’s a great pitching coach.
"More importantly, however, he’s a really good person," Dennis said. "If I had a son that was looking to play somewhere I would send him to play for Butch 100 times out of 100. I don’t think you’ll find many, if any, ex-players who will tell you any different. He’s just somebody I would trust to lead a program, to lead my son, to lead other people.”
While Dennis is tied to Auburn’s program and played for Thompson on the Plains, former Mississippi State pitcher and current Oakland A’s hurler Kendall Graveman has a different connection. As a recruit he was headed to Auburn to play for Thompson, but when he ended up with the Bulldogs it meant that the Alexander City standout was Starkville bound instead.
Winning 19 games in his career at Mississippi State, including an 8-5 record and an ERA of 3.08 in 2013 as the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Championship Series against UCLA, Graveman was selected in the eighth round by the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to Oakland. He credits his time with Thompson and their ongoing bond in part for making him the pitcher and person he is today.
“I’ll put it into words, but I don’t think words justify the type of person Auburn is going to get in Butch Thompson,” Graveman said. “Coach Thompson, during my time at Mississippi State, the recruiting process, even now, is almost like a second father to me. For me to be able to call him up and talk to him or when I was there, not only the knowledge he brings about the game but other aspects as well, it’s just the true and genuine person that he is.
“He doesn’t come across anybody he overlooks,” he added. “Him being a Christian guy and somebody that loves the Lord, somebody that is going to take care of every person inside that organization. He treats somebody that is washing the clothes or the managers as well and better sometimes than his own players. That just speaks volumes to the type of person and character he brings to the table.”
Those are the types of things that have made Thompson one of the top recruiters in college baseball dating back to his days at Auburn when he was instrumental in bringing in three consecutive Top 15 classes to the Plains. With the ability to attract top talent also relate to them when they get on campus on a personal level, Dennis said Thompson’s hire is one that could change the future of the Auburn program in a very big way.
“I think it’s vital,” Dennis said of his connections in the state. “Butch has been the best recruiter in the state of Alabama for five or six years now if not longer than that and he hasn’t even coached in the state. For Auburn to be successful we’ve got to tie down the state, tie down Atlanta, hit Columbus, Ga. and Florida some, and Butch recruits all those areas very well.
“As far as success as a program, we’ve got a guy in place that can recruit all those areas and lead all those areas,” he added. “As a former player it’s good to know that your program is in good hands. I want to see Auburn have great success and go to the postseason and win games, but I also want to see them develop the people, developing human beings and kids in the classroom. My dad was a coach and I have always felt like that was part of the job too, it’s not just winning baseball games. I feel like Butch is the first guy we’ve had in a long time that can do all those things.”