February 4, 2009
While growing up in Amory, Butch Thompson envisioned being a part of the baseball program at Mississippi State.
Thompson is getting to realize that aspiration 21 years after graduating from Amory High School as he''s about to embark on his first season as the pitching coach at Mississippi State.
The 38-year old Thompson jumped at the opportunity to become the pitching coach when Mississippi State coach John Cohen called and offered him the job.
Thompson accepted the job just eight days after becoming the head baseball coach at High Point University in High Point, N.C.
"There was no doubt (about taking the Mississippi State job), but I did say that I just got here (at High Point)," Thompson said Tuesday night as the guest speaker at the Columbus High School baseball team''s fourth-annual First Pitch Banquet. "There was no doubt because of the chance to work with John Cohen. I have so much respect for him.
"High Point was so classy about it. The AD (Craig Keilitz) got it and he let me go. He didn''t have to let me go because I was under contract."
Thompson joins Cohen''s first staff at Mississippi State as Cohen takes over the program from the retired Ron Polk.
Thompson believes it''s been a smooth transition from Polk''s staff to Cohen''s staff.
"I think it''s been unbelievable," Thompson said. "The guys have been unbelievable to our staff. This is the best group I''ve ever worked with."
Thompson said it''s the Bulldogs goal to win a national championship, starting with this season.
"I don''t want to give this year away," Thompson said. "You never know what''s in the cards. We want to play like (the team can win the national championship) and we want to pitch like it. Why coach at Mississippi State if you have a lesser goal than that."
Thompson played collegiately at Itawamba Community College in Fulton and at Birmingham-Southern for former Mississippi State assistant coach Brian Shoop, and coached collegiately at Birmingham-Southern, Georgia and Auburn before returning home to Mississippi.
Birmingham-Southern won the NAIA national championship in 2001 and Georgia played in the College World Series in 2004 while Thompson was a member of those coaching staffs.
While speaking at the banquet at the Columbus High School cafeteria, Thompson directed his speech to the members of the Columbus baseball team.
"I just want them to focus on doing the right thing all the time," Thompson said of what he hopes the players will take with them from his speech. "I don''t want them to be scared to figure things out for themselves."
Thompson shared with the players what kind of players Mississippi State is looking to recruit.
"I''m looking for guys that are different and not guys who run with the pack," Thompson told the players. "If you believe in something, you better act like you believe in what you''re doing. Someone who believes in what they''re doing is who I want to surround myself with.
"I''m looking for leaders. I believe a leader is a great servant. I''m not looking for chiefs. John Cohen is the chief."
Thompson told the players the game is not about them and it''s about the team.
"When you put on your uniform you have to hold yourself accountable," Thompson said. "It''s not what''s on the back of your uniform, but what''s on the front. It''s a team game."
Thompson also stressed the importance of excelling in the classroom, pointing out that Mississippi State led the Southeastern Conference with a 3.31 GPA in the fall of 2008.
Thompson also pointed out that Mississippi State''s Dudy Noble Field was rated the No. 1 collegiate baseball facility by Sports Illustrated in 1997 and stressed to the players they should strive to play in that type of stadium.
Thompson told the players if they do their best every day, they could possibly one day play at Mississippi State.
The banquet helped the Columbus baseball team raise money to play in the Disney Wide World of Sports tournament in Orlando, Fla., this season. Pork and chicken dinner plates sold for $10 and a silent auction featured signed items from the Pittsburgh Steelers'' Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, former Yankees'' pitcher Roger Clemens and former Atlanta Braves Dale Murphy and Tom Glavine among others.