A Q&A With Baseball Coach Nick Mingione

GenesPage.com sat down with Mississippi State Coordinator of Baseball Camps Nick Mingione Thursday afternoon.

What do you know about Mississippi State baseball?
"I know about our Big Leaguers, I know about our tradition, I know about Coach Polk, I know about the previous staff."

How do you know so much about Mississippi State baseball?
"I've done my homework. But I grew up in southwest Florida and Mississippi State baseball is a big deal there, too. You hear about Florida State, you hear about Florida and Miami, but you hear about Mississippi State, too."

Did you dream about coaching at Mississippi State?
"I'm very strong in my faith and I don't ever try to put myself in any situation ... I just want to go where the Lord wants me to go."

It never crossed your mind?
"No, but once I heard Coach Cohen was hired, then all of sudden you start thinking, 'maybe he'll call me.' (laugh). And sure enough he did."

You are MSU's Coordinator of Camps. You've got quite a bit experience at that don't you?
"Yes, we had camps at Western Carolina, the University of Kentucky and at Embry-Riddle University. I've been involved in camps at all three of those places."

And Coach Cohen is also treating you like a recruiting coordinator when it comes to on-campus recruiting due to your experience as a recruiting coordinator. Have you been told what your duties will actually be?
"No, we haven't gotten into that, but I'm sure I will be involved in some of the on-campus stuff, hopefully all of it when the recruits come into town."

Why did you get into coaching?
"From the time I was 12-years-old I knew that I wanted to coach. In little league the players on my team used to call me coach (laugh)."

Really, what did you do to have them call you that?
"I'm very enthusiastic and I have a lot of energy. And I really enjoy helping people. I really feel like I have a serving heart. I love giving."

You have coached at quite a few places. What did you learn at each place that helped you as a coach?
"Every level is different. And the people who have coached me have all been different and have all taught me different things - from discipline, the language that comes out of my mouth, your work ethic, to my faith. Offensively and defensively, I have learned things from every coach. And I'm not afraid to ask questions.

"My coaches in college, Coaches Greg and Todd Williams, who are brothers, were very disciplined, very strong in their faith, tireless workers, not afraid to get dirty and do things on the field. I spent seven years with them (as a player and coach).

"And I learned about anything you can think of from Coach Cohen. He is a tireless worker. And he's probably going to get mad at me for saying this, but I think he's a genius. There is no doubt in my mind that he could step in a Fortune 500 company and run the company. His brain is always going and never, never stops. And he works extremely fast. He is infatuated in getting better, and he's infatuated with winning."

Did he tell you why you were one of the guys that he wanted to hire?
"No, he just told me that he had to have me. And I trust him. I think he would do anything in the world for me and I will do the same for him. I totally trust him. That's the bottom line."

Maybe I can answer my question for you. He said he wanted a guy on campus who is a great recruiter, a great evaluator of talent and people. You appear to fill the bill.
"I do think (relating to) people (is) one of my strengths. I love people. I come from a big family. I have two brothers, a sister and my mom and dad."

Coach Cohen told me you are one of the absolute best coaches when it comes to teaching the short game. Describe the short game to me, and how you became so good at teaching it?
"What he is talking about is the bunting game - the drag, the push. I learned it from my coaches in college.

"Most people, when they think of offense, just think of hitting. To us, that is just one piece of the pizza pie. There is also base-running, base-stealing, strikezone discipline, and the short game ... all of those different factors are parts of an offense

"So, when you go into a game - some people call it a battle - you want to have as many bullets in your game as possible. If you can bunt, that's just another weapon that you are able to use."

Coach Cohen mentioned that you spoke to the ABCA convention. It's a very prestigious honor to speak at that convention and there are coaches that have been waiting for years to speak at it And you did it at a very young age. What did you speak about?
"I spoke about the short game. One of our former coaches here, Pat McMahon asked me to speak."

Why did he ask you to speak? There must be a lot of coaches who could speak about the short game.
"I have a passion for it. I have a passion for bunting. I have a passion for creating pressure on our opponent. And that is one other way that we can do it."

Coach Cohen likes to talk about attacking at the plate. Exactly what does that mean?
"It is our belief that when you are at the plate whomever dictate the tempo of the at-bat usually is going to win the at-bat. You'll see that a lot of our hitters might call timeout. They want to take control of the at-bat. While hitting is a boxing match, it's also a game of chess at the same time.

"When we talk about attacking the game, our definition is understanding what is going on that day - is the pitcher a strike-thrower, is he wild, does he throw his breaking ball for a strike, what is the umpire's zone like, where does the umpire set up behind the catcher? All these different factors could determine how we are going to attack it. Now, we understand each player is different, so some guys you get into it a little deeper and others you don't. How each player works is how we try to help them."

That seems like a lot to learn during a game. How quickly can the staff learn that?
"We hope by the first 20 pitches. And there needs to be a level of communication among our kids."

And it's not just the first 20 pitches, because, as the game goes on, a pitcher changes and even the umpire changes?
"It's never the same. The umpire's strikezone is never the same. The way the pitcher's pitches are moving, how he is getting off the mound - it's never the same."

It almost sounds like you are a football coaching staff during the game, always thinking about the next play, or, in your case, the next pitch.
"We are constantly communicating, evaluating. You have to be locked into every single pitch. Coach Cohen wants you to coach. He allows more freedom than any other person that I have been around. He is never intimidated by someone else's opinion. If you have an idea or you think you can do something better, you always tell him. And he is not offended by it one bit. I think he's like that because he's so smart."

We talked about the coaching staff being involved throughout the game. Will the players be involved in the same way?
"They had better be. And I think Coach Cohen is a master at creating an environment where guys want to be involved in his system. They are going to want to pay attention. And when they come up to Coach Cohen and tell him something, he is going to be all ears. He encourages players to do that."

I love to watch a game that involves base-stealing. Has Coach Cohen talked to you much about often his teams will steal bases?
"There is so much that dictates stealing bases. The personnel will dictate it, the size of the ballpark, the wind blowing in. What the stolen base does - and the threat of the stolen base does - is put more pressure on our opponent. And we are all about putting pressure on our opponent. In their scouting report they have to not only prepare for the guys who might bunt, but they also have to prepare for the guys who might steal bases."

When you look for a base-stealer what are you looking for? Anybody can steal a base against a pitcher who has a slow delivery to the plate or has a bad move to first or a catcher with a weak arm. But not everybody can steal against the pitchers with a great move to home or first or a catcher with a great arm.
"The guy who can actually steal bases has a feel for the game, a feel for the pitcher. He knows when to steal. I personally am attracted to guys who can steal bases when it matters."

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

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