Cohen previews 2015 Diamond Dogs

Mississippi State skipper John Cohen shared his thoughts on the 2015 edition of the Diamond Dogs during media day on Saturday.

Opening Statement…

“Our kids are really excited about playing somebody else. We have done a lot of drill work. Our kids have worked hard in the weight room and in conditioning – all of the stretching, all of the rehab type of things that you have to do to get ready for a season. I think we are in pretty good shape. Our kids are mentally in a really good place and physically as well. I think they are ready to interact with our fans.”

On the potential for more power in the lineup…

“Certainly you talk about a Reid Humphreys, who has really come along and become a guy that can provide some power in the middle of our lineup. He had a really nice first year, but I think he’s ready to take that next step forward. Wes Rea is somebody we need to have a great year. He’s very capable of that and he’s worked hard on his swing. This being his senior year, he wants to go out on top. Gavin Collins, down the road, is going to be very productive for our baseball team. I think he’s a really productive hitter and I think we have some new components also that are going to be really good players for us as well.”

On the addition of Zach Dillon…

“I think that he adds a really personal touch. Hitting is a lot like golf in the aspect that there is a ton of one-on-one. There is a lot of touch and feel that goes into it. There is a lot of discussion because there is clearly not one way to do it. There are several ways to be successful and I think he’s done a great job with our kids individually and just working their plan; working their stroke with them every single day. He has made a really good transition.”

On the catchers…

“I think Josh Lovelady is a guy who stepped into our program as a junior college transfer from Shelton State who we think is going to be a really dynamic leader and defender. Cody Walker is coming back and has really been very good for us too in terms of calling a game, receiving, blocking, and all of those things. He’s really improved his game as an offensive player. I think Gavin Collins is very capable of being one of the best catchers not only in the league, but one of the best catchers in the country.”

On new players that could make an impact this year…

“We have several of them. I will just name a few off the top of my head: Luke Reynolds is a left-handed hitting third baseman from Forest, Mississippi. He just came to our program from Hinds [CC]. Hinds had a phenomenal year last year. That is not by accident. You win with guys who are winners – guys who are really good players, and certainly, he’s one of those guys. John Holland is a young man who transferred to us from junior college. He played his freshman year at Florida State. He is somebody who is a very exciting player. Michael Smith is a junior college outfielder who can really run and has power. I think the fans are really going to fall in love with the dynamic athleticism that he brings to the table.”

On his impression of the new baseballs…

“I think the new baseballs are going to make a subtle impact on the game. I don’t think it will be dramatic, but there will be subtle differences that will change a game. I do think the ball is going further. I think in certain ballparks, it’s going to play out a little more dramatically than it will in ours, but, again, I don’t see it making a dramatic impact.”

On Trevor Fitts’ move to the bullpen…

“Trevor has really gravitated toward his role well. He has a power breaking ball. His fastball really plays into a sprinter type of role for 10, 15, 20 pitches. I just think he is made for it. He is a really tough kid, likes to compete, and likes to have the baseball when it matters most. That is usually the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.  He has been incredible in the fall and now in the early parts of the spring, so we’re excited about that transition.”

On the outfield rotation with a number of replacements having to be made…

Jacob Robson has really made a jump for us in the outfield, both as a power and strength guy and as a runner. We lost some guys in the outfield who are very, very good players. C.T. Bradford is a really good player. Demarcus Henderson and Derrick Armstrong also helped our club, but we do feel like we have people waiting in the wings to take those spots and, certainly, Robson is one of those guys.”

On Reid Humphreys making the transition to the outfield…

“Reid is doing well moving to the left field spot. I think he will have some designated hitter opportunities. I think he’ll have some left field opportunities. I just think we have to get Reid in there because he’s such a dynamic hitter.”

On the team’s character…

“I think the kids are really loose because we have great character, we have great kids and they come from great families. They have really bought into what we do and I use that word collectively – we – because the kids are so important in the recruiting process and so important in what we do on a daily basis – their spirit, their togetherness, all of those things. I’m not a big fan of the word chemistry, but they do well together and it’s fun to watch them come together. It takes a while when you bring in a different collection of guys.”

On recruiting…

“Before we even bring somebody into the fold, we let them hang out with our players. We hear from the recruit what they have to say about our players and we hear from our players about what they have to say about the recruit. They have to live together. This is a family and we mean that in every way; from our oldest player who is 95 years old and lives in California – our oldest alumni – to a freshman in our program right now. We want this to be a family and we believe that is what this is and our kids have to find that.”

On Luke Reynolds’ potential impact at third base…             

“Luke’s done really, really well. It is certainly a transition from junior college to the Southeastern Conference, but he has all the characteristics that you are looking for. He can run and has arm strength, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Does it take a couple weeks? Does it take a month? Does it take a year? You just don’t know in our sport, but there’s no doubt that Luke Reynolds has a really bright future.”

On John Holland’s ability to replace a player like Brett Pirtle in the lineup…

“Brett’s such a dynamic athlete. I had this conversation with him a few years ago when he was coming out of junior college out of Panola. I think, if the numbers are right, he hit .222 his sophomore year and made 30 errors in the infield. Two years later, he wins an SEC batting title and is essentially the best defensive player in the SEC at his position. That not only talks about his athleticism, it speaks to how badly he wanted to become a great player. I think John fits that mold as well.”

On the depth of the infield possibly becoming the backbone of the team…

“Early in the year, we’re going to play a lot of different players. Matthew Britton is somebody who has come a long way, especially with the bat. He has worked on his swing and he is much better. Seth Heck is a much improved player – bigger, stronger and faster. The ball comes off the bat differently now. Matt Spruill is a young man who came to us from a junior college in Texas and he has so many different skills. We have to find opportunities for him to play. We have a young man from the Atlanta area, Ryan Gridley, who we feel is going to be a really good player in our program and maybe the future shortstop. He is a dynamic athlete as well, so we have to find opportunities for these guys because they’re really good players.”

On whether he has set a starting pitching rotation heading into the first weekend…

“We haven’t, but Preston Brown is somebody who is going to pitch for us again. He has been great every time out, especially in the early part of the spring. Lucas Laster has pitched very, very well. We would love to have the capability of putting Ross Mitchell in the bullpen. I am not sure if we’ll have that luxury. Is he the third starter? I am not sure yet. Austin Sexton has pitched extremely well and the young freshman from Spanish Fort, Ala., Jesse McCord, has pitched lights out and will pitch for us too. We will have competition for those spots, but we have also been able to piece together a bullpen really well, so hopefully all those pieces will come together for us.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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