Mississippi State baseball pitching coach Gary Henderson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page

New Mississippi State baseball pitching coach Gary Henderson talked one-on-one with Gene's Page.

Since you have just been hired, you haven't had a chance to see your pitchers throw. What are your thoughts about them going into the fall?
"I want to give everybody a fair shot early on, not come in with any preconceived notions. Obviously, at some point in time you look at the statistics from last year and see who has game experience, who has had success, who has practiced for a year. You also take into account their summers and also who is healthy. You then start from there."

Most the pitchers are playing summer ball right now. How often do you try to stay in touch with them?
"I tell each of them to send me a text after they pitch. I want them to let me know how it went. You try to keep up with them the best that you can. And obviously I go to the (summer league) websites. And I have four or five leagues send me an update every night. You also want to give kids feedback. Sometimes that takes up to 24 hours."

Describe your pitching philosophy?
"In terms of philosophy I try to do a good job of getting guys ready to compete at a high level, throw a lot of strikes, work ahead in the count, be really effective from the standpoint of throwing low strikes as compared to a radar gun standpoint."

I know you have your own pitching philosophy but everybody is different. I assume you adjust your coaching based on each pitcher and their differences.
"You have to have some individual adjustments. And the older you get the more you are willing to let kids go with their individual strengths. We are not into making sure everybody looks the same or have the same three pitches. You want variations in the bullpen."

As a pitching coach, when you are recruiting pitchers are there specific things that you looking for?
"You are looking for athletic deliveries, looking for guys who can continue to improve, develop and get better. You are looking for mechanical efficiencies. You want them to have tremendous mound prescience. When you are looking at kids who are 16 and 17-years-old you don't want them to have hit their ceiling. You want to find out if they are accountable and responsible in their personal lives. You want them to be successful academically. You want them to be able to fit into the realm of college athletics. You want someone who is going to be a good teammate.

"One of the advantages of having experience doing this is I see all of that a lot quicker than I did 25 years ago."

You do have the advantage of experience. One of the coaches that you will be working with is Will Coggin. Will, although a very good young coach, is still new to being an assistant coach. I can see your experience being of help to him when you two are together out on the recruiting trail.
"There is some of that. But there is also a lot of talking, a lot of conversation that is generated throughout the process. There is a lot to be learned when doing the job over time. You can take the brightest guy in your world and he is 31-years-old, he is smarter than you but think how much you can teach him (due to your experience). But also in relationships like that you like to think that you can learn from each other. That is the healthy way to look at it. You can learn from everybody. I even learn from players. There will be a kid that I learn something from every year."

What does it mean to you, as a college baseball coach, to be able to coach at a program such as Mississippi State?
"It is a name that is recognized throughout the country. Obviously, the Southeastern Conference is recognized throughout the nation as well as being the preeminent baseball league. It is not only an honor to be at Mississippi State and be a part of the baseball program but also be in this conference. Next year will be my 18th year in the league."

You have worked with John Cohen before. So you know him better than if you were coaching with him for the first time. How much does that help you?
"My first thought is it helps a lot. It helps a lot when you have an idea about your co-workers. I obviously recruited (Mississippi State assistant coach) Michael Brown. And he will be our volunteer coach this year. So, there are two people on the coaching staff that I already had a relationship with. Those relationships are established and very strong and very positive.

"And I am working with (MSU assistant coach) Will Coggin on the recruiting front of it. And he and I have multiple conversations every day as we try to help put a team together."

In addition to having worked with John Cohen before, you have also been an SEC head coach. Due to that, you know, for the most part, what John Cohen goes through on a daily basis. How does that help you and him do your jobs?
"I think it helps in a lot of ways. Probably the most significant is you understand a lot of things that John has to take into account before he makes decisions. You realize things aren't quite as black and white as a head coach as they sometimes are as an assistant coach. As a head coach you have to be cognizant of what is best for the program. You have to do a really good job of managing 50 people. I think there will be many times, after being a head coach in the league for eight years, that will benefit me in terms of understanding that John has to take a lot of things into consideration. Hopefully, I will be able to take some things off of his plate. Hopefully, I will do a good job of that for him."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network.

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