Chad Crosswhite and Ryan Duffy Interview

Senior righthanded pitcher Chad Crosswhite and junior catcher Ryan Duffy, in a very candid interview, talk about the things Coach John Cohen and his staff have brought to the Mississippi State baseball program due to their philosophy.

You've been working with the new coaches for two weeks. Give us a day by day report.
Chad Crosswhite "We usually meet on Monday to go over what we are going to do. We also lift (weights) Monday. We lift four days a week. Pitchers lift at 4:15 (pm) and hitters at 5:15. Tuesday is our four-on-ones with the coaches, which usually lasts 35 to 40 minutes. After four-on-ones, we lift weights. Wednesday, we have four-on-ones at the same time as Tuesday. Thursday, we lift at 4:15. We also run every Tuesday and Thursday after we lift. Friday, we lift at 6 am. We also work every weekend. We'll do four-on-ones. Sunday, the pitchers will swim. We swam 45 minutes the other day."

How long do you lift weights and is there differences in lifting for the pitchers compared to the hitters?
Chad "We lift for an hour. It's very similar, although with the pitchers there is not so much stress on the shoulders. But as far as legs and abs, it's totally the same."

I know it's only been two weeks, but have you noticed any results from all the work?
Chad "We haven't completed two full weeks, but I can tell my body has already gotten in a little better shape just from the work we've done during those two week. I'm sure the hitters are also in better shape because they've never had to run before."

Did you expect all of this - the lifting, the running - or was it a shock to you?
Chad "It wasn't a shock. I knew that Coach (Butch) Thompson was going to put us through pretty tough times because the SEC is pretty tough and you have to be in really good shape. And I think he's doing an outstanding job with us so far."

When you said you are already seeing a difference, are there other differences other than what you see body-wise?
Chad "I think the main things are the attitude and respect. I think all of our players - from freshmen to seniors - have done everything that Coach (John) Cohen has said to do. I don't think there is any doubt about that. And that goes a long way when you have someone new coming in.

"Just from watching other players, I can see that we have all gotten in better shape. We hustle and we've just done the things that we need to do to get better.

"And as far as going to class, there is absolutely no missed classes ... period."

What happens if you have to miss a class?
Chad "You have to call the coach and tell him you are going to have to miss a class. Like I have to go to a wedding next week, I let him know about a month before."

Was there a preconceived idea what it was going to be like with Coach Cohen? And if so, has it been like you expected or has it been different?
Chad "I had heard he was a disciplinarian, so I thought it was going to be pretty tough. I had also heard some stories that weren't true. But, for the most part, he has lived up to my expectations."

Ryan Duffy "When I found out that Coach Cohen had the job, I started running the next day. But I don't think it was something that we could have prepared both mentally and physically. You can go run for 45 minutes a day, but you weren't going to be ready for what we had to do. The lifting is so much different this year. And the running is a lot different for everybody

"I like the weight lifting a lot better this year. It's a lot more like circuit training, lots of reps, but a little bit lower weight right now. In the past, we only had six weeks to lift before the season, so we had to get as strong as we could as fast as we could, so we did a lot of heavy weights in a short time. But now that we are starting from the first day of school, we can start from scratch and work up to where we want to be. And I think we will be stronger and have a lot less injuries."

It sounds like both coaches, Coach Cohen and Coach Ron Polk, have different philosophies as far as lifting and running are concerned.
Ryan "Coach Cohen and Coach Polk have much different philosophies. And I think both of them are great coaches. I really like what Coach Cohen is doing so far. He just wants us to be the best conditioned athletes that we can be. I think the difference between him and Coach Polk is that Coach Polk wanted us to be very well rested going into the season. He just kind of looked at it from a more old school type way."

Chad "We may not win a game next season, but I can promise you that we will be the most physical, most disciplined team in the conference, hands down. I can honestly say that we are going to be in shape."

Why causes you to say that?
Chad "Because of the things that we have been doing. Because of what Coach Cohen and all the other coaches have done to help us understand what it really takes to be a national champion. You have to have the athletes, you have to be talented, but at the same time if you aren't doing the little things right you won't progress."

Would you agree that the physical things you are doing right now are also being used to make you mentally tougher as well?
Chad "They are. I can honestly say from the time we start until the time we end, we will be going fullspeed. It is constant. The warmup we do for 15 minutes before we even touch a ball is rough. You are sweating profusely when you are through with that, then you go grab a ball."

Ryan "Mental toughness is not something you are born with, but if you don't have a degree of toughness then there is no way you are going to be able to make it through what we are doing right now. Chad mentioned the warmups. I remember the first day we did warmups I wanted to lay down and put a wet rag over my head (when it was over). I thought, 'we have practice after this.' You just have to push through it, push through it, push through it.

"Once we get through all this work we are putting in, when we get out on the field there is not going to be much adversity that we can't overcome due to this work. If we are down by 10 runs in the 9th, I don't think anybody is going to be thinking about losing. There will not be any obstacle that we won't be able to mentally overcome. (Assistant strength) Coach (John) McCallister and all the other coaches are helping us in a huge in that."

Are you saying they are making it so hard that playing the game will seem to be easy?
Chad "Yeah, especially for the freshmen coming in. They don't really know what the league is like. This league is tough and there are going to be tough times when you are out there. And I think all this stuff will allow us to be mentally ready for the season."

You mentioned warmup earlier, what does it consist of?
Ryan "Our warmup consists of flexibility, getting your heart rate up and a lot of arm care. They probably put six or eight hurdles out. We walk and squat through the hurdles to get our hip flexors loose. From that, we go straight to a weighted ball that is 12 to 18 pounds. We do four exercises with them. From there, we go to the ladder drill that helps us get quick feet. We are constantly doing this so that our heart rate stays up throughout it. Then, we run about 8 to 10 times up and down a hill behind left field backward and forward. Straight from that, we usually come in and do arm care. By then, we are sweating pretty bad. Then, when we go to four-on-one, we feel more like we are in the 4th inning of a baseball game instead of just coming from light stretching. You are loose and ready."

How will all this conditioning and lifting weights help you in a ballgame?
Ryan "The biggest weakness I had last year didn't have much to do with my defense or my offense, but my physical ability. I think I only caught something like 30 games, but after the LSU weekend I almost blacked out. I didn't have the strength to keep going. I don't know where and how much I'm going to play this year, but my goal is to know that I can catch every single pitch of the year if I have to."

You two guys are veterans. You both will have to be leaders on this team. How can you be leaders for the younger guys since this is new to you as well?
Chad "Being a leader, when you are doing something you have never done, you have to work hard at it for the young guys. You have to keep pushing through it."

I know it has only been two weeks, so maybe it's too early for you two to know, but I'm going to ask it anyway - what kind of team should MSU fans expect to see next year?
Ryan "Last year we were thought of as nice young men. And we are going to still be considered as nice young men off the field, but (on the field) I think it's going to be a lot different. I think (the fans) should be really excited about what Coach Cohen is going to do for this program. We are such a prestigious program and we were in Omaha two years ago, so it's not like he's going to turn it around. But it is going to be a little bit different and I think they are going to like what they see."

Are you seeing that aggressiveness in Coach Cohen and his staff that you've heard about?
Ryan "Off the field, this coaching staff is what we were used to before - they are good guys and approachable. They are not intimidating off the field, but on the field they always expect your undivided attention and 100% effort. If you aren't doing things the way they expect you to, they are going to get on you. And if you aren't doing it the right way, I would expect that from them. I have been yelled at a few times. It's not meant as demeaning but more to get you going and get you where you should be."

Do you almost feel like a football player sometimes?
Ryan "I guess it's similar in a lot of ways."

Chad "It's like two-a-days, it really is. You start, do something hard, rest a little bit, then do it all over again."

What has been the biggest surprise so far?
Ryan "I think everything has been a surprise, so far."

Good or bad surprises?
Ryan "I think the best surprise so far has been the way Coach Cohen has affected our lives off the field. This may sound corny - I cared about studying, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it ... I was more interested in what I was going to do Saturday night. Now, what I care about is how my teammates are doing, what we have to prepare for. And it's the same way in the classroom as it is in the locker room. It's really been a big change for me."

Why the change?
Ryan "The workouts are molding us into better individual. And after practice it's not like I want to go out and hang out with people. I'll go home and study for a couple of hours. I've probably read more this semester and worked more in class than I usually do in a whole semester. I really appreciate that because it's allowed me to get my priorities back to where they should be."

Chad "Due to the stuff he is putting us through, you have to get your priorities right. As far as hanging out at night until one or two, that is out. That is out of the picture, period. You physically and mentally can't do it any longer."

Ryan "Really, the main reason this is happening is because we are working toward something that is bigger than we have ever had to work for, and that is trying to win a national championship. And he has us believing that can happen."

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

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