What are your thoughts about Grant Hogue?
"I have been watching Grant play ball since he was a little kid. When I coached at Southern Miss, being from Oak Grove, he used to come to our camps. What he brings to this team you can't put a price on - leadership, hard worker. He is just a plus kid. He's the kind of guy you want your son to grow up to be like or your daughter to grow up and marry. And I don't say that about a lot of kids. I have probably said that about five players during my career as a coach. He has IT, whatever it is.You are talking about a kid who was a walk-on who we can't go on the field without now. He has worked hard to make himself one of our better players."
How has he done offensively?
"I think with Coach Cohen's hitting philosophy he has found his own swing. And that has helped him a lot to clean up his stroke. Coach Cohen gave him freedom and he needed that freedom. And with Coach Mingione's bunting philosophy, that is just fuel on the fire. That is just going to make him that much better in pressuring the defense."
"This will be the third year of his four years that I have coached Luke. Offensively, he is one of our better hitters. He is a little guy who hits like a big guy. He is a little guy who hits with power. A lot of people try to challenge him due to his size, but he has some lightning in his hands and bat, he always has. He is hard to pitch to.
"Defensively, he has to get better. And he knows that. He's working hard at that and it's in there. He's got a good arm and he has speed. But he has to do a better job of using that speed on the base field - covering those alleys, getting to those balls, and not being tentative."
"Brent was hurt. But he was probably the most impressive guy after coming off an injury on the entire team. He had shoulder surgery and he's diving for balls, diving into fences for balls. He plays reckless and I like that. He also has tremendous speed. And, as we said before, we need guys like that to cover the gaps at Dudy Noble. He's a guy who can do that.
"Offensively, he shocked me. Here's a guy who didn't swing a bat for two months. Then, when he finally started swinging the last two weeks of the fall, he barrelled up some balls. He had some great at-bats. He got better every day."
Jason Nappi played both corner outfield positions for you.
"Last year was his first full season in the outfield. He's gotten dramatically better. And it's been fun to hear the players talk about how much better he's gotten since last year. He's another guy who played in the Cape Cod League this past summer. And he really took advantage of his time in the outfield while there, and he's gotten much more confident in himself due to that.
"Offensively, he has the ability to knock the ball out of the yard. He's aggressive, he runs well and he's a smart baserunner. And he's a good communicator. He just needs to continue to get better defensively."
Nick Hardy is one of the seniors in the outfield.
"Nick is a leader. He's experienced and has been in the league for several years. That kind of experience is invaluable. He's played all three outfield positions for us. And he played all three of them above average. Offensively, he started out on fire at the start of the fall, then he went through a little funk halfway through. Then, he played really well in our World Series (at the end of the fall). He runs the bases aggressively. He's got the short game. He's smart. And like all of our guys, he loves Mississippi State baseball and wants to go out with a bang."
Ryan Collins was coming back from shoulder surgery. What did you see from him that you liked?
"Ryan is a fierce competitor. He is a silent warrior. He is aggressive. There is no doubt in our minds that he will compete everyday for us, and that is a great quality to have. Offensively, he has made some really nice adjustments with his stroke. And by the end of our small group work, just before they left for the holidays his stroke was noticeably better. He was more confident with it and happy with it. A lot of that has to do with some of the adjustments that he and Coach Cohen made in his swing during the four-on-ones, and also him recovering and getting healthy."
Mark Goforth didn't really get to play much this past fall due to an injury.
"It is very difficult for us to evaluate Mark after the fall due to his injury. Because he was battling injuries, he couldn't always run full-speed, but he could bunt. And that is one weapon that Mark has, the short game. He can definitely do that for us. Defensively, we didn't get a chance to evaluate him. Offensively, he got a few at-bats, although not as many as he would have liked. And I think Mark would tell you that he didn't have the type fall that he wanted to have offensively, but that will come as he gets healthier."
Saturday - Butch Thompson talks about the pitchers.
Sunday - John Cohen talks about the middle infielders and the third basemen.