MSU Baseball Coach Zach Dillon Interview

Mississippi State Coordinator of Baseball Camps/Assistant Baseball Coach Zach Dillon talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about joining the MSU baseball coaching staff.


How did you wind up getting into coaching as a career?
"It really started my second year as a player at Baylor. I redshirted my first year at Baylor. I was a catcher. I spent a lot of that redshirt year observing and learning from our coaching staff, how they did things, how they taught the game, how they implemented the game and how they tried to develop the players.

"And coming from a coaching background - my father was a football coach - it was in my blood, so I was kind of drawn to those guys and to coaching.

"But at that point (at Baylor) I knew that was what I wanted to do. Due to my love for baseball I always knew that I wanted to be in baseball. That was kind of the turning point where I decided that I wanted to be a coach at this level."

You have coached at several colleges. Talk about your career up to this point.
"My first stop after professional baseball was at the University of Iowa by Jack Dahm as a volunteer coach, the camp coordinator. I got a lot of great experience while there. During the first year I coached the catchers and outfielders and I was the first base coach (during games). I also developed the camp with them. And I think I did a pretty good job of doing that. The second year with him I got a little bit more responsibility with the hitters. I had a more intricate role in the development of the players.

"After my second year at Iowa I was given a really good opportunity to go back to Baylor University and start a youth academy that was run out of the baseball facility. I developed a month-to-month camp business really. We did it every day and kind of created some community involvement with it. We were basically running a private business out of the baseball program. Nebraska and Baylor are the only two (colleges) to do something like that. Really it was camp but we were doing it all the time. We were running camp year-round.

"About halfway through the year there was a coaching change on the staff and I was asked to be the volunteer coach. That year - 2012 - we had a really special season. We had 24 straight wins, won the Big-12 outright with two weeks left in the season, had six series sweeps in the Big-12, in the top 5 in a bunch of offensive categories, and had four All-Americans. We ended up losing to Arkansas in the Super Regional.

"Then, in October, Coach Dahm of Iowa had a position open, the recruiting coordinator position. He offered me the job and from the experience standpoint - even though he was on the last year of his contract - I thought it was a great opportunity. I would get recruiting experience, coach third base and be the hitting guy. That was something that I couldn't pass up. So, I took the job.

"A month after I took the job the pitching coach left so it was just me until we hired Jim Brownlee, who was a longtime coach at Evansville and Illinois State but had been out of coaching for about three years. He kind of helped us out by joining the staff and being our pitching coach for that spring. But as far as the recruiting and the day-to-day operations that was on me. Because of that, I have been involved in just about everything.

"They let Jack go in June but I was retained as the interim head coach for the summertime to keep the daily operations going. There were five candidates for the head coaching positions, three of whom I felt I would stay on with if they were hired, but the guy they hired didn't end up being one of those three.

"It was August at that time so it was late in the (hiring of coaches) process for me. But I'm from Des Moines and there is a private baseball sports complex there that was starting a high school fall travel team program. And they hired me. It turned into a full-time baseball job running that program. That was what I did the year prior to being hired here.

"But I knew I was going to get back into coaching on this level. There were several opportunities, including me ending up at Creighton in Omaha. There was also a really good possibility of me ending up in Texas in a variety of spots. Then, this opportunity came out of the blue, and it was the best opportunity.

"I was actually watching a high school game in Iowa and (Baylor) Coach (Steve) Smith texted me, asking me if I would be interested in going to Mississippi State. I said, 'yeah, of course.' He said he thought that Coach (John) Cohen was going to call me in about five minutes. That kind of got the ball rolling. We had about four or five conversations on the phone. I didn't really know what to think about it, but I knew it was a good job that a lot of great candidates would like to have."

Your position at Mississippi State is Coordinator of Camps. What does your job consist of?
"I am the camp coordinator, coach the catchers, and help with a lot of the hitting."

What are your impressions of the catchers at Mississippi State?
"The unique thing about Mississippi State is the catchers have a lot of responsibility. They call their own game, something that I believe in. With that opportunity for them comes a lot of responsibility for us as coaches to prepare them. And (pitching) Coach (Butch) Thompson does a great job of that. I'm trying to mirror what he does so that we are all on the same page.

What are your thoughts about Gavin Collins, the starting catcher from last season?
"He has incredible ability, can really receive, can block, can hit, very serious about what he is doing with his craft. We are just working through the little things, how to handle the successes and failures that happen behind the plate consistently. We want to help him process those mini failures that happen behind the plate. You want the catcher to be able release those failures because he has to make a play on every pitch. And in our system he not only has to make a play every pitch but also call a pitch on every play. Due to that, it is very important for our guys to be in the moment on every pitch."

Because you are still new to the coaching staff, I assume you and Coach Thompson almost have to be like brothers right now because, as you said earlier, you want to mirror what he is doing with the pitchers and catchers. How do you do that?
"We spend a lot of time together. I try to learn from him what he wants from our guys. But I have been a catcher my entire life. So, this is no different. The challenge here is on bullpen days and the hitting days I have to be with the hitters. I still try to be with the catchers as much as a I can on the bullpen days. It is a lot to do but that is why I do it. It's exciting. It's not work for me."

I know you have seen great crowds before but does it excite you as a coach knowing there will be upwards of 15,000 fans at a game here at Mississippi State?
"No doubt it does. What that says to me is it matters, it matters. I played in the College World Series, in the Big-12 Tournament, at Texas, at Texas A&M but none of that will equal what it is like here. I'm excited to see it and feel like it will be special. The tradition here speaks for itself. The success that they have had with the program and the teams in the past speaks for itself.

"We come to work everyday trying to get our guys as ready as we can so that they can compete for a national championship. And having that (fan) backing kind of gives you that extra push, gives you that motivation because you know it matters."

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


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