Tommy Raffo Talks Outfielders

As in the past, we at Gene's Page - and now, also, Dawgs' Bite - will do a four-part series where the baseball coaches at Mississippi State discuss the position players they coached during the fall and where each player currently projects for the upcoming season. Assistant baseball coach Tommy Raffo, who primarily coaches the outfielders, will discuss those three positions in part-two.

Junior Jeff Butts
"Jeff returned to us this fall after taking a summer off to rehab his foot. Because of that, we kind of had to ween him into fall practices. By the middle to tail end of the fall, he was back to 100%. We are really excited about that because he showed a truer form of the Jeff Butts that we know can go out and get balls in the outfield. I think last year, toward the tail end, he was hampered a little bit with foot problems. He wouldn't admit it or show it and toughed it out. He can play center or leftfield."

Sophomore Ben Grisham (also pitches and plays third base)
"Ben has worked very hard to do two positions. Now, he has incorporated a third, pitching. The main strength Ben has is his arm strength. When he throws from the outfield, his ball has great carry and life. So, making that transition from third base to leftfield has been good. He hasn't played a lot of outfield. That's why we used him a lot more in the fall."

Senior Jon Mungle
"Jon has played some center and some left. Of course, he is coming back from ACL surgery and was cleared to participate in our fall practices. Over the course of the fall practices, Jon's endurance factor and his lack of strength hindered him. Anytime you come back from knee surgery you always want to make sure the muscles around the knee are strong enough. He's working hard to get better at that."

Junior Ryan Fesmire
"Ryan can play all three outfield spots. He is a lefthand thrower and hitter. Out of high school, he was more of a centerfielder, but he can play all three. He adds a little bit of speed to the outfield."

Junior college transfer Matt Richardson
"Matt struggled a little bit coming into the fall because he had torn his left labrum the last game of his spring season. He was out all summer in a sling rehabbing his left shoulder. He was cleared to play in games in the middle of the fall. For him to jump back in was very difficult for him. He showed some power in some (at-bats). In the outfield he knows he has to get a lot better in getting a jump on the ball. I think the biggest thing for Matt, whether you are a freshman or junior college player, is there are a lot of things that you are asking them to do."

Junior Brad Corley
"Brad has been in rightfield for us going into his third year. Of course, he has always had a really good work ethic. And he does a tremendous job as far as understanding how to play rightfield as a sun field. It takes a special player to handle the sun or sun balls and he does that quite well. He also did that in high school. He is somebody that the team will look up to, maybe not so much from a vocal standpoint, but very much from an example standpoint."

Freshman Jeff Flagg (also plays first base)
"Jeff is playing outfield and first base for us. He comes to us as a raw talent from Jacksonville, Florida. He is very athletic and runs very well for a big guy. Again, he is learning the system that we have in place. As far as letting him play, there are some adjustments that he will have to make in the outfield, but we are very pleased with where he is right now. We are asking him to make some adjustments at the plate such as shortening his swing and being more consistent. He has power, but we aren't asking him for that right now. What we are asking him to do is achieve an efficient swing that strives for consistency."

Sophomore Brian LaNinfa (also plays first base)
"Brian plays first base, outfield and DHs. He has actually gained some footspeed in the outfield and was moving around in rightfield very well."

Junior Joseph Hunter
"Joseph is a centerfielder. He has worked very hard and did well in the fall practices. He is very good in the outfield and has a very good arm. We look for good things from him this spring."

Junior college transfer Marshall Faulkner
"He is a walk-on from ICC who is a physical young man with the potential to develop. That is why he is still on the squad. We are anxious to work with him."

Do you know who your three starters will be in the outfield?
"As a staff, you talk about what individuals. What (Coach) Polk does is ask us for our input such as what we think our lineups will be. He takes those into account. That helps him, but he, ultimately, has the call in who plays in a lineup."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

Gene's Page Top Stories