Jake Mangum took the Southeastern Conference by storm this past season and was justly honored as the Freshman of the Year after leading the league in hitting with a .427 batting average.
However, Mangum’s bat was not always so sizzling.
In fact, he was not even an every day player for Mississippi State in the beginning. Mangum was in the opening day lineup but struggled at the plate hitting only .111 through his first seven outings.
But things started to click by the end of March as he saw his average soar to .366 with a few spot starts during the month.
“You start to realize how guys are going to pitch you,” Mangum said. “You’ve just got to wait for a good pitch to hit and be able to drive it when you get it.”
An injury to center fielder Jacob Robson during the Ole Miss series provided Mangum with a chance to be in the lineup every day. It was an opportunity he took full advantage of, starting the final 30 games for the Bulldogs and remained in the leadoff spot even after Robson returned.
“It helped out a lot getting my rhythm down and being on time more – getting the barrel out front,” Mangum said. “It for sure helps to be able to get consistent at bats every game.”
Mangum finished his freshman campaign with 73 hits, nine doubles, three triples, one home run, 25 RBIs and six stolen bases. He received seven All-American honors in addition to becoming the first freshman to ever win the Ferriss Trophy, presented annually to the top college baseball player in Mississippi.
“It never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for the veterans on the team that helped prepare me for where I am today,” Mangum said. “We had a deep outfield and they all helped me out and prepared me for what to expect. Going into the season, I had no idea what to expect in the SEC.”
Success was something Mangum was prepared for and was quite accustomed to in high school. The Pearl native was a three-time Perfect Game All-American at Jackson Prep where he hit .504 as a senior.
After arriving at MSU last fall, Mangum admitted to having a tough time making the transition to the college game.
“In high school the game was a little slower,” Mangum said. “Things are faster here. It forces you to be more vocal, especially in the field. Since I got here in August, the coaches have done a great job of slowing down the game and putting you in every possible situation.”
The switch-hitter’s fairytale freshman season in Starkville almost didn’t happen. He was once committed to play at Alabama where his father, John, was an All-American defensive back for the Crimson Tide in 1989 and still holds the school record for pass deflections.
“I was offered by Alabama first after my freshman year and it hit me out of nowhere,” Mangum said. “I loved it so I committed early. After a year it just didn’t feel right and I decided to take another look at Mississippi State. I fell in love with it. I’m an in-state guy and I thought it would mean more for me to bring a national championship here, and it would be a big deal because we’re looking for the first one.”
Jake Mangum stated that he had his father’s blessing and full support in his choice to leave his alma mater and forge his own path with the Diamond Dogs.
“My dad was really open and told me I could go wherever I wanted and that it was my decision just like his father had done for him,” Mangum said. “He loved Alabama and will always be for Alabama but he’s 100 percent sure for Mississippi State baseball.”
After all, it was John Mangum, who went on to play nine season with the Chicago Bears, that instilled the work ethic and drive that has helped him be so successful at this stage of his career.
“My dad really pushed me and knows how hard it will be for me at each level,” Mangum said. “He let me know and prepared me for that at a very early age.”
Jake Mangum has picked right up where he left off in the spring with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League. He is batting .320 with 24 hits, one double, one triple, four RBIs and five stolen bases through 19 games so far this summer.
As astonishing as Mangum’s rookie season was at State, it appears may have more in store for his encore. The 6-foot, 180-pound southpaw could take to the mound where he was 8-0 with a 1.48 ERA as a senior in high school.
“I’m not convinced that he’s not going to pitch for us in some point in time,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “I’ve seen him go 92 (MPH) with a decent breaking ball. That’s not out of the realm of possibility for us.”