Coach Raffo Talks About MSU's Outfielders

[This is the first part of a four-part post-fall baseball practice review:]<P> MSU outfield coach Tommy Raffo talked with Gene's Page about how his outfielders progressed during the recently completed fall baseball practices.

Talk about each outfielder and improvements you saw in each during the fall practices.

Jeff Butts

"Jeff had a very good summer. He played everyday in Matsu in Alaska. That is a very tough league. I was very pleased with the outcome of his summer. He came in ready to play this fall because of that.

"Jeff has a lot of game moxie. He is a gamer. When the lights come on, he really starts to shine.

"He is a doubles guy, meaning hitting the ball with a line drive approach from gap to gap. It is fun to see him run the bases, especially when he goes from home to second or first to third. This fall, you saw him run from home to third because he hit a lot of triples.

"From an offensive perspective, the biggest thing he has been working on is bat discipline and trying to be selected at the plate so that he can be a better hitter in the strikezone. Hopefully, we will see significant improvement in the spring.

"Outfield-wise, he is a very athletic kid who can play any outfield position. He can run down any balls in the outfield. He is a real plus for us when we put him out there from a defensive perspective. We saw him do that last year when Joseph Hunter went down (with an injury). He played some centerfield. The versatility that Jeff brings to the team is important."

Brad Corley (also pitches)

"He want back home to Louisville and played a little bit in some leagues there.

"I think he solidified himself last year when he hit .320 in the conference. He does have power but it hasn't shown up in games. It shows up a lot in batting practice.

"He is a physical young man. He is continuing to grow. I don't think we have seen the best of Brad Corley, yet. I think you will see a lot better Brad Corley and I thought he was pretty good as a freshman."

Ryan Fesmire

"Ryan is a young man who can play all three outfield positions.

"With Ryan being a left-hand hitter, he needs to be able to put the ball in play and run. He was able to put the ball in play a lot more this fall than he has in the past. He did a significantly better job at that and it really helped him.

"He is a very coachable young man and is everything a Mississippi State baseball player should be. He does everything we ask him to do and he plays hard. He reminds me a lot of David Mitchell, a player who was here in 1987-90 and the starting centerfielder his senior year."

Ben Grisham (also plays third base)

"He had a nice summer at Bethesda, Maryland in the Clark Griffith League. He played short, third and some outfield.

"At the beginning of the fall, we made an adjustment with Ben by putting him in as a secondary outfielder because he is athletic enough to handle two positions. It adds more versatility to the team because he is a right-hand hitter. He can run very well.

"We are still making adjustments in his (hitting) stroke to help him become more consistent. One day we see Ben is very good at the plate and the next day not as good as the day before. He has good bat speed and nice hands at the plate. He is a very coachable young man and a very pleasant person to work with.

"As an outfielder, he has a plus arm. As a third baseman, he gets (the ball) over to first as quick as Steve Gendron.

"I am very excited about Ben's future because I think it is very bright. The ceiling is very high for him. If he keeps working the way he has, he will be in good shape."

Joseph Hunter

"He played a lot as a freshman. He was hurt mid-season during the South Carolina series but came on later in the season. He had some heavy padding put around his thumb when he hit in the regionals. He made a big, highlight type play in the regionals. That's the way Joseph plays. He plays all out and goes after it full bore. That is fun to see. He still had to rehab this summer, so he didn't play (summer baseball). But he significantly increased his good body weight and got stronger. And it showed up a little bit during the fall.

"Everything we thought he would be in centerfield, he has been. He threw out a couple of runners last year.

"Going back to the freshman hitters, he hit around .280 to .290 last year. Although he held his own, he is very capable of doing better. He has surprising pop in his bat, at times. He is another young man that you want to see run the bases. When Joseph Hunter runs the bases from home to second, first to third or home to third, it is fun to watch. If he can put the ball in play and run those bases like Jeff Butts, those two guys, together, present a problem for the defense."

Brad Jones (also plays first base)

"He played both first and outfield for Jeannie Cook in Danville this summer. He was much better, offensively, this summer. We were very excited about his fall.

"He is one of the hardest working guys on the team. He showed a lot of leadership qualities this summer. He is excellent, defensively, at first. In the outfield, he does a very good job, although he doesn't have the speed of the other guys. He has a surprisingly strong arm from that position, but I think we will see him more at first base."

Tyler Jones

"He is a redshirt freshman. He put on a lot of good weight (during the summer).

"He struggled a little bit this summer due to not playing last spring.

"He came in and was very coachable, wanting to show the Mississippi State staff and his teammates that he was ready to play. And he is.

"We saw him put more balls on the ground than we have seen from him in the past. He is another young man who can really fly around the bases. His speed helped his batting average improve. During the intrasquad games, whenever he hit a ball on the left side of the field, it was basically a base hit. He also has some pop in his bat.

"He is going to continue to get better. He has a high ceiling."

Brian LaNinfa (also plays first base)

"He went to Bethesda, Maryland with Tyler Jones and Ben Grisham and had a very good summer. He hit 6 home runs and was selected the MVP of the all-star game after hitting a home run.

"He is a true hitter. We recruited him as hitter. He shows good pop from the left side. One thing about Brian, when he gets in the batters box, there is a aura about him. You just sense that.

"His offensive game is ahead of his defense. So, I think first base might be more of his position down the line."

Jon Mungle

"His bat discipline has improved. I think he has improved from his strikeout totals from last spring. He didn't strikeout a lot this fall. He was much more consistent this fall. To me, that showed a lot of improvement from previous years.

"Jon has pop in his bat. He is very strong and that sometimes gets him in trouble because he tries to do too much. We saw that a lot last year when he struggled.

"The reason he was drafted was because he can run and has some power.

"From a defensive perspective, Jon has come a long way. He learned how to relax and make catches. Probably the biggest thing we worked with him on was where he needed his body to be positioned behind the baseball and where to field and catch a ball.

"For Jon to be successful, he needs to continue doing what he did this fall."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at

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