July 21, 2018 10:02:37 PM
STARKVILLE -- Ty Kelley was selling medical equipment for Stryker after his baseball career finally ended in the independent leagues in 2015, and one day his job took him to Raleigh, North Carolina. He had forgotten his pitching coach at Auburn, Scott Foxhall, then held the same position at North Carolina State, and Kelley just so happened to run into Foxhall in town.
They immediately picked up a conversation, "like we never missed a beat."
Kindness is one trait of Foxhall's that is brought up by his former players, even ones nearly a decade removed from playing for him. Now that Foxhall is Mississippi State's pitching coach, those former players are happy to see him in such a prominent role.
"They're getting a knowledgable coach that really cares about his players," Travis Orwig told The Dispatch. Orwig pitched for Foxhall at N.C. State. "I know when he came to coach me at N.C. State, that was the first time a coach really did a lot of pitching with me."
Kelley added, "He's a very personable guy. He's one of those guys who's always had his players at heart, wants to make sure we're comfortable with him and he's comfortable with us."
Foxhall ingratiated himself to players in his first year at Auburn -- after 13 years at College of Charleston -- by having them all to his house for dinner, Kelley remembered. From there, it was easy to stay loyal to a man who encouraged their individuality.
Orwig described Foxhall as a coach that, "didn't want us to be robots," allowing pitchers to bring their own styles to the craft. Instead of focusing his energy on changing pitchers, he focuses on making pitchers as good as they can be within their identity; MSU hitting coach Jake Gautreau has the same philosophy.
"You've earned this spot, do what got you here," Orwig said.
That being said, Foxhall does have a high standard for pitchers adapting themselves to the given day's opponent. Orwig said Foxhall is an incredible scout with a natural ability for finding the best way to attack a given set of hitters. From there, all a pitcher has to do is take their style Foxhall has boosted and apply it to the hitter's weakness.
Foxhall is also going to send his pitchers to the mound as the best versions of themselves from a physical standpoint.
"He really cared about our conditioning and strength, too," Orwig said. "I noticed I got stronger when he got there."
Orwig said Foxhall would not overtake the existing strength and conditioning coach or his program, but would work closely with that person to tweak whatever is needed for the pitchers.
There is also reason to believe Foxhall is poised to fix what has plagued MSU pitching for two years now: depth.
The Bulldogs have made it as far as they have the last two seasons, one Super Regional appearance and one College World Series appearance, in spite of pitching staffs that relied on fewer arms than most teams of that caliber. Foxhall has shown the ability to develop top starters while bringing bullpens along to go five, six or more pitchers deep with reliability.
Orwig is proof: he was one of those last arms in the bullpen. As a senior, he appeared 17 times with a 2.04 earned run average, striking out 20 in 17 2/3 innings.
"It's a delicate balance," Orwig said. "I felt like Coach Foxhall gave the same kind of care to me that he gave to a Friday night starter.
"I'll advocate for Coach Foxhall anytime because he's a good guy."
Even with Foxhall now coaching a division rival, Kelley is motivated to stick with him for the same reasons.
"I'm happy to see him back in the SEC and competing in the SEC again," Kelley said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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