A Q&A With MSU Hitting Coach Lane Burroughs

Gene's Page did an interview with new Mississippi State baseball hitting coach Lane Burroughs Monday afternoon.

How did you wind up at Mississippi State?
Lane Burroughs - "Coach Cohen and I obviously worked together ten years ago at Northwestern State. I think he's the best hitting coach in America, hands down, and probably the smartest guy that I have ever worked for.

"Dave Van Horn, who is at Arkansas now, hired me and Rob Childress, who is at Texas A&M now, was his assistant. I was on that staff when Van Horn and Childress was hired by Nebraska around Christmas. I had just gotten married and didn't want to tell my wife we are moving to Nebraska, so I stayed. John (Cohen) got the job and kept me on his staff. We ended up working well together and developed a good relationship.

"(A couple of years later), I got the Southern Miss (assistant baseball coaching) job when Coach Palmer, who I played for at Meridian (Community College), offered it to me.

"Then, ten years later John got this job and called me to see if I would be interested in coming with him. And I said yes in about 1 second (laugh)."

Will it be difficult to be the hitting coach for a man who you feel is the best hitting coach in America?
"With him being the head coach, he has a lot more to worry about than tinkering with swings and talking about strokes and things like that, the mechanical side of hitting. I think he trusts me enough to do that, but he will be involved. That's the same way it would be if I ever get a head coaching job. I would want to be involved, but I would want to hire a guy who would do the day to day things.

"But we teach the same thing. Ever since I left Northwestern where we coached together and went to Southern Miss and then went Kansas State, it has been the same thing. And I think there was that comfort level with me due to us having worked together and us teaching hitting the same way. I think that played a big role in him offering me the job."

Most MSU fans have checked out the type hitting teams he had at Kentucky and they are very excited about that. But you describe what the MSU offense is going to look like in as much detail as you can.
"The think about John is it is going to be an attacking type offense. But I think it's going to change some from what he had at Kentucky because at Kentucky it was like a launching pad, so you could recruit the big, heavy-legged guy. But here (at MSU), where it is more of a bigger park, you are going to have to recruit a little more speed and have your boppers in the middle. But John likes to attack and stay in his opponents face. And I'm a big motion guy myself where you get the runners in motion. So, we are going to do whatever it takes, hit and run, steal ... that's the type coach he is. You met him and know him. That's his philosophy in everything in his life.

"But we will adjust to what we have now and we'll recruit to what we want."

My favorite teams were the Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960's, the teams with Maury Wills, one of the great base stealers. State has a guy similar to him in Grant Hogue, a guy who can steal a base for you. Will we see more players like that in the future?
"I think we are going to have to get some of those guys, small guys like Grant and (MSU signee) Justin Bussey who can bunt for a hit and can run. Of course, you are going to have to have your big guys in the middle. When you look at the history of the left-handed hitters here, the ball kind of jumps out in right. There was Palmeiro and Clark and even John (Cohen), all left-handed hitters."

Because you were at Southern Miss for several years you know about a few of the guys on this current team.
"I recruited Cody Freeman at Southern Miss. He and Paxton Pace are both from the same high school I went to. Paxton is another guy to watch. I know he pitched more here, but he's hurt and had Tommy John surgery. But he is a left-handed guy who can hit.

"I recruited and signed (current MSU player) Luke Adkins for Southern Miss. He is going to pulverize right-handed pitching. And he's got big-time power for a little guy."

What do look for when you recruit a hitter?
"It depends on what kind of player he is. If he's a speed guy, I like to see a guy who can bunt and hit and run, control the barrel of the bat. And I always look for a guy who unlocks his body from the ground up. Does his lower half get involved in the swing? That is big for Coach Cohen and myself. Does his barrel stay flat through the zone, does he have a flat swing? I also look to see what kind of backspin they get. And bat-speed is very important.

"I also look for a kid who competes. You can tell immediately when a kid gets in the batters box if he competes. That is huge for me."

How do you know a kid has great bat speed? What exactly tells you a hitter has it?
"If a guys is facing a pitcher who has velocity or a good secondary pitch like a good, nasty slider, and he fouls it off and the pitcher just can't get it by him, you know he's got bat speed.

An old scout told me one time when I had a radar gun, 'you can put that up because the hitter will tell you how he's throwing.' That's kind of how I look at hitters, too. If that pitcher is throwing good and is having trouble striking the guy out, then you know you have a good hitter on your hands."

How important is recruiting to a program?
"Today, recruiting is 90% of the job. You can have Vince Lombardi coaching, but if he doesn't have good players he's not going to win."

This staff is considered a great recruiting staff. Tell me your definition of a great recruiter.
"Number 1, in recruiting you have to have a passion for it. I really mean that. There are days when you are out there recruiting and it's a grind. There are days you want to throw your hands up in the air after you get your heart broken. And there are days when it's the greatest feeling in the world because a kid committed to you that you really wanted.

"Anybody can spot a great ball player. My daughter, who is six-years-old, can spot the great player. You look for those diamonds in the rough. Maybe, you are able to see something that other people don't see, a kid who has the intangibles such as hustling and playing hard. You can see that he's a competitor. I think that makes a great recruiter, somebody who can see that competitive nature in a kid that maybe others don't. So, I just think it's work ethic, desire and a passion to win."

Was Luke Adkins that kind of guy?
"Yeah, he was. I saw him three or four times and he's knocking balls off the wall. That got your attention, so you would bear down on him a little harder. Then, you decided that you have to have this little guy. And he was recruited. Mississippi State recruited him a little bit. And, obviously, at Southern Miss we had to go at him a little harder.

"The thing about Luke is he's small. He's one of those guys who feels like he's on life support and has to come out and prove himself every day. He doesn't have that big league body, so he probably feels like every day when he comes out he's one day away from being cut. So, he has to prove himself. That is the intangible that you are looking for."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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