A Q&A With Butch Thompson

GenesPage.com talked with new Mississippi State baseball pitching coach Butch Thompson Monday afternoon.

What does it mean to you to join the Mississippi State baseball staff?
Butch Thompson - "Coming here has been a dream of mine forever. This is a dream job, a passion job. Being from Amory (Mississippi) I remember coming here as a young boy while in high school and watching the games.

"I've been working 16 years in college baseball and in the back of your mind you map a course of where you want to be. And this has always been a place that you always want to be a part of because there is nothing like it.

"And the opportunity to come home and coach here and in the SEC was important to me. It's like I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

While you didn't play here and have never coached here, you had indirect connections to MSU during your college career.
"Brian Shoop was an assistant here for Coach Polk. He's my mentor and is like a dad to me. I worked for him for eight years at Birmingham Southern and owe him all the credit in the world. I remember how he talked about Mississippi State all those years. And he just kept feeding it to me, things like Will Clark and Jeff Brantley.

"It's like ghosts walk around here. People say that about Yankee Stadium. And I think in college baseball you have to say that about Mississippi State baseball.

"We not only represent the boys that are here, which is first and foremost what I care about, but I can feel the people that have invested so much here. People like Jeff Brantley, who donated (the money) for my (MSU baseball) office. You feel a sense of entitlement and endearment to people like him."

How would you describe your pitching style?
"There is a style for making every person the best that they can be. And I want to find out what we can do to develop each individual.

"The most important thing is the level of contact that the pitcher is giving up. There's either hard, soft or swing and miss.

"I want to focus on soft contact. What that means is the ball is not going through a gap, but is hit at a routine speed where people can catch it. We put guys behind the pitcher to play defense for him.

"And we want our guys to produce contact not walk guys. A walk is like a single. The first baseman has to hold him on and the middle infielders lose defensive posture. You have to throw strikes to have success at this level unless you have big-time swing and miss type stuff."

What do you look for in a pitcher when you are recruiting?
"Would I want to pay money to watch someone pitch? Pitching is center stage. Everybody is going to see the pitcher.

"I like to see how the guy carries himself, his poise. I also like a good tempo, a guy who always keeps the defensive players engaged in the ballgame. You also want to see a guy repeat his delivery.

"I also like to see count swing and misses. I like to see spin on the ball. I also like to watch how many times a pitcher throws a pitch above the mid-thigh. If they throw too many balls above the mid-thigh that scares me to death."

Is velocity an important part of what you look for in a pitcher?
"There is actual velocity and perceived velocity. And perceived velocity is more important. Why does a guy who throws 88 throw it by hitters and a guy who throws 95 is seeing hitters pulling it foul? That means he can't disrupt timing. There are guys who can throw 86 who is throwing it by hitters like he is throwing 92."


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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