Jake Mangum will begin his second year in Maroon and White under the direction of a new skipper, Andy Cannizaro. Mangum, like all in the Diamond Dawg family, was concerned about who would take over the reigns once John Cohen accepted the post as athletic director in Starkville.
As the Bulldogs prepare for their season opener, Mangum reports that the team has responded well to the coaching transition and that they are eager to begin a new era of Mississippi State baseball.
"Coach Cannizaro is the man," Mangum said with a grin. "He has really helped us out a lot. A lot of guys have already made some major improvements. He is definitely the guy we need to do it."
Mangum was a big part of things as the Bulldogs won two of three on the road in Baton Rouge a season ago against Cannizaro and LSU. The talented outfielder reports that it is nice to he and Cannizaro are on the same side of that storied rivalry now.
"We all respected him last year, but we didn't really know him at all," Mangum said. "We have head such great things about him from all of the LSU guys. Now he's here. It's funny how things work out. Coach Cannizaro is here now and he has us ready to go."
While fans of SEC teams stay after each other 365 days a year, the relationship between the players is often cordial. With Cannizaro making the move to Starkville, many of the current and former LSU players were valuable resources for State players who were eager to learn what to expect from their new head coach.
"I talk to Cole Freeman once a week," Mangum said. "I've talked with Kramer Robertson, Greg Deichmann, Doug Norman and a bunch of those guys that I played ball with this past summer. That whole entire team over there has been very, very close with us. They are a good group of guys and I am looking forward to playing them."
While there was a period of adjustment once Cannizaro arrived during the fall baseball sessions, Mangum reports that the team has embraced the change. With so many new faces in new places, the change in leadership came at a time when the Bulldog roster was also in transition.
"Having such a young team this year, a lot of guys mature over the course of practices," Mangum said. "Coach Cannizaro likes to play a lot of innings. He puts you on the field and as he says the cream rises to the top. A lot of these younger guys are starting to understand what it takes to win in the SEC.
"We have guys like Blake Smith, Josh Lovelady, Brent Rooker and Cody Brown who have been tremendous leaders. They really push these guys to get ready to go."
Mangum got a little push himself as Cannizaro impressed upon him the need to improve as a right handed hitter. A dangerous lead off guy from either side of the plate, Mangum went to work to shore up his swings from the right side of the plate in an effort to be an even tougher out this spring.
"Right hand hitting is something that I struggled with towards the end of last year," Mangum admitted. "Coach Cannizaro came in and he immediately helped me out, I have made some minor adjustments that have helped my game out a lot. It's come a long way and I am really excited about it."
The Bulldogs will open the season later today as Texas Tech comes to town to open a four game weekend for Mississippi State who will play two games against both Texas Tech and Western Illinois this weekend. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 4 PM today. Left hander Konnor Pilkington is set to start for State.