True freshman Jake Mangum has been a quality addition to the Bulldog line-up.

As August classes began in Starkville, the Mississippi State Bulldog baseball team saw an influx of talented players arrive in hopes of making a real difference on the diamond. One of the most heralded newcomers was freshman outfielder Jake Mangum of Pearl, Mississippi. After a decorated career at Jackson Prep, Mangum was eager to sharpen his skills on the college level.

Jake Mangum is the son of former Alabama All-American defensive back John Mangum. The elder Mangum went on to play nine seasons with the NFL's Chicago Bears. With his professional career over, Mangum settled in Pearl, Mississippi where Jake would take the first steps towards his own SEC sports career in the Pearl Youth Baseball organization.

Despite growing up in a football family. Mangum found that he had a knack for the game of baseball, a passion that his father fostered.

"At a young age, my dad worked baseball with me," Mangum said. "He never really pushed football on me. His favorite sport is baseball it seems like these days. That's all he ever really watches and that's really the only thing he really pushed me to be. I have loved the game ever since."

Mangum matured in the game and soon became one of the top baseball players in the state of Mississippi at Jackson Prep where the talented outfielder helped the Patriots to multiple state championships. When it came to summer travel ball, Mangum pretty much he had his pick of teams to play on.

"I played with Dulin's Dodgers out of Memphis, Tennessee," Mangum said. "I played with most of this team. It feels like just about our entire freshman class here played with Dulin's."

The chance to continue his playing days with his friends and summer league teammates is one of the reasons Mangum elected to back off of an early decision to play for Alabama and sign on with Mississippi State. 

One of Mangum's closest friends and fellow freshmen, Noah Hughes, was part of the Jackson Prep experience as well. The former high school teammates are enjoying cutting their SEC teeth together in Starkville.

"Noah is one of my best friends," Mangum said. "He is probably the best teammate I could ever ask for. We have been together since high school and junior high. He is a great dude and he has a great work ethic. He does an amazing job of helping me out and helping me get ready to go. He has been there for me for a long time."

Hughes had his first big Bulldog moment when he shut down the Vanderbilt offense in the final two innings of a huge Mississippi State road win. Mangum was among the most excited about Hughes' impressive relief appearance. 

"That night for Noah was awesome," Mangum grinned. "I have seen him work his tail off for a very long time to be ready for that moment. He was definitely ready when his was name was called. He has worked on everything. He is just one of those guys that grinds everything out and that's one of the things I love about him."

The weekend in Nashville was memorable for Mangum on a more personal note as well. The talented frosh put together a clutch weekend at the plate with the big knock coming with the bases loaded. 

"My mindset was just to get a good pitch and hit it," Mangum shared. "Our coaches have coached us to be ready for our moment. I felt ready to go as soon as I stepped in the box thanks to the older guys. 

"I was ready for that moment, because of what they all told me it would be like. 

"Reid Humpreys told us in his speech before the season what it was going to be like on the road. He said that you just have to be ready for it and our coaches have just prepared us to be ready at all times."

Coming through in that moment was big for the weekend and for Mangum's inclusion in big moments to come. While many fans expected big things from Mangum, he entered the season not sure how much he would see the field during his first season in the Maroon and White.

"I didn't really have any expectations," Mangum said. "Knowing that we had an older ball club with a lot of new guys coming in, I just wanted us go to out and win some ball games. If my name was called, I just wanted to be ready. That's all I have really thought about."

Mangum is part of a trio of young position players that have earned some starts this spring. Along with shortstop Luke Alexander and catcher Elih Marrero, Mangum is part of a young nucleus of players that have Mississippi State fans excited about the future of their baseball program. 

"I grew up playing baseball with Luke, he is my roommate," Mangum shared. "I have known Luke since I was about seven years old. I believe this is our tenth season to play together. I have known him most of my life.

"I met Elih back in August and he has just been a great teammate. That's probably the best thing that I can say about our team. We have a group of guys that are real close."

While returning players in some programs may feel threatened by talented newcomers, that has not been the case at Mississippi State. Mangum reports that the veteran Dawgs have treated he and his fellow freshmen with respect.

"The older guys have really shown us the way," Mangum said. "They have shown us how to play SEC baseball. They have really helped us a lot. 

"I think the whole team thinks of us as one big unit. We all just try to play together. The older guys have sort of taught us what to look for in each at bat and on each play what to be ready for and what to anticipate. They have been amazing to us."

The Bulldogs have won their first two SEC series of the 2016 season. They will look to make it three in a row this weekend as arch-rival Ole Miss comes to Dudy Noble for a three game series that means a lot to both programs and fan bases,

Mangum is doing his best not to let his emotions get the better of him knowing that the eyes of the Magnolia State will be on Starkville this weekend.

"It's just another game for us," Mangum said. "We are just trying to approach it like all of the others. We want to come out and try to win game one. Hopefully, we can get that done. Dakota (Hudson) has been pitching well for us, so we're excited to play."

When Mangum is announced to the Bulldog faithful this weekend, he will walk up to the plate to the sounds of the The Outfield's "Your Love". The song was released some eleven years prior to the solid hitting outfielder being born. Despite not hearing that pop rock classic on the static-matic stereos of the '80s, the song holds some special significance for the personable Mangum.

"Back in high school, our left fielder, Trace Lovertich, used to use that as his walk-up song," Mangum explained. "He's actually a freshmen up here now. When I was picking out a walk-up song, I was talking to Trace about it and he told me that I just had to do it. It's sort of a tribute to Trace. 

"It's something that fans all know and can sing along to. It works out perfectly with what we're trying to do offensively this year. The Outfield's greatest hits album is called "Big Inning" and that's what we're trying to do."

While a pair of Styx anthems were in contention. Mangum says he really had no second guesses about which song would announce his arrival in the Dudy Noble batter's box.

"I wanted to go with something classic rock," Mangum said not meaning to make us all feel old. "The Outfield's 'Your Love' was just in the back of my mind the whole time. I knew I wanted to do that and it will be my walk-up the whole four years that I am here."


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