A Q&A With MSU Asst. Coach Jake Wells

In a five-part, series, Gene's Page talks with the the Mississippi State baseball coaches about the position players they coach. The first-part of the series is with MSU assistant coach Jake Wells, who is responsible for the catchers.

There are four catchers on this year's squad. The first I want to talk about is Mitch Slauter, who started all of last year's games.
"I think that Mitch is going to be Mitch. The guy caught a lot of games last year. He has energy and is a leader on the field. He is going to be steady-Eddie. He is a guy who wants to win and he's going to find a way to do that. And that is what Mitch Slauter brings to what we have here. Coming off the knee injury, he had to take the summer off. Because of that, he was trying to get back into the swing of things. And I think at the end of the fall was when he started to come around. His legs and arm were getting into shape. His swing was coming around a little bit. I think, as he continues to work with our strength and conditioning coach in the offseason, he will be a different guy than what you saw in the fall."

Another returning catcher is senior Nick Ammirati, who is a very, very good defensive catcher.
"When I first took the coaching job here I heard about how good Nick is defensively. And he is a very fundamentally sound defensive catcher. He can also throw well. I also think that his offensive set, toward the end of the fall, was good. The batting average might not show it. But he really squared up a lot of balls late in the fall that were right at people. While his offensive numbers won't show up in his batting average, his quality of at-bats that we keep on a chart will have better numbers on them because of how many balls he hit hard right at people. We also kept up with each catcher's ERA for the pitchers he caught and he led that category. He is a guy who wants to be good and he comes in and does extra work to do that. He is a guy who is fighting for our number one spot."

Your one true freshmen among the catchers is Daniel Garner. He was a highly-recruited player who has a lot of talent.
"Danny has a lot of potential, a guy with a lot of upside who has a lot of projectability. He can swing the bat, there is no question about that. What we are trying to do is transfer the mentality that he has at the plate to his defensive mentality. At this level, it is a lot different than it was in high school. And he is working hard at making his game better so he can be the best. He comes in the office and watches video. I think the more he matures defensively, the better he will be. He has all the tools to be a quality defensive catcher. I think hands and feet are the most important thing in dealing with the catcher's defensive stance. And I think that Danny has some of the best secondary position out of all four guys that we have. He is wide and a physical presence at catcher. We just have to get him to be more confident in what he is doing defensively. We just have to get him over the learning curve. I think he is eventually going to be a guy that people come to love throughout his career here."

Junior college catcher Zack Randolph really surprised me this fall. He had a really good fall, especially hitting the ball.
"Zack was kind of the sleeper because nobody really knew a lot about him. He came from a great community college in Mississippi, Itawamba Community College. He did an outstanding job in the fall. I think he ended up hitting something like .325 in the fall. We always thought he was would be good defensively but we didn't know about his offense. So, that was a surprise. As for his defense, he can really, really block and really receive. He's really good defensively. He did struggle a little bit late while getting used to the arms on our staff and what they bring to the table. But he will be a guy who will be really, really good because he has a real desire to be better. When he had a bad day he really did the work to get better. I look for him to be a quality guy for us down the road."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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