Northeast baseball schedules First Pitch banquet
Northeast Mississippi Community College’s baseball program will host its fifth annual ‘First Pitch’ banquet on Monday, January 24 in the Claude Wright Room on the second floor of the Haney Union on the Booneville campus.
Northeast’s ‘First Pitch’ banquet has served as a kickoff for the baseball season and the 2011 version is no different with Mississippi State University head baseball coach John Cohen serving as guest speaker for the evening.
Former Mississippi State quarterback Matt Wyatt makes it an all maroon-and-white affair when the former Northeast Sports Information Director returns to emcee the event.
Cohen joins an illustrious cast of guest speakers at the ‘First Pitch’ banquet that have included Kent Willis, Atlanta Braves Minor League Pitching Coordinator (2007), Mississippi State University Head Baseball Coach Ron Polk (2008), University of Mississippi head baseball coach Mike Bianco (2009) and Southern Mississippi University head baseball coach Scott Berry (2010).
Cohen enters his third year at the helm of the Mississippi State Bulldogs after leading the Diamond Dogs to 48 wins in his first two years. Cohen opened his Mississippi State coaching career with a 25-29 record in his initial season and added 23 victories to the win column in the 2009-10 season. Cohen’s overall record in Starkville stands at 48-62 overall and 14-30 in the Southeastern Conference.
Cohen’s coaching career came full circle on June 7, 2008 when the former Mississippi State baseball player returned to Starkville as the Bulldogs 16th head baseball coach in school history. Cohen’s journey through the college ranks ended 18 years to the day after the former Bulldog ended his playing career in the 1990 National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) College World Series.
Twenty-one years removed from Mississippi State as a player, Cohen has had the opportunity to learn from some of the best college coaches in the national and also instruct some of the best players to play the game.
Prior to coming to Mississippi State University as a coach, Cohen clocked time at Northwestern State (La.) and the University of Kentucky as a head coach and also coached at the University of Missouri and the University of Florida.
Cohen spent five years as the head coach for the University of Kentucky Wildcats prior to coming to Mississippi State and garnered national attention when the veteran mentor turned the Wildcats from a 7-22 SEC team into 20-10 SEC Champions and earned Kentucky a berth in the NCAA Regionals.
During his final year at Kentucky, Cohen guided the Wildcats to their second NCAA Regional appearance in three years after compiling a 44-19 record on the diamond.
While not on the diamond, Cohen is busy recruiting players off the diamond – during his first full recruiting class, Cohen’s class ranked as the nation’s eighth-best by Baseball America and was the highest national ranking by a Mississippi State recruiting class since 2000.
Not only does Cohen demand excellence on the field but the veteran mentor makes sure his players are well-rounded and continues a commitment toward excellence in the classroom as evident when his 2008-09 team posted a 3.31 grade point average during the 2008 fall semester.
Cohen also serves as a feature speaker across the nation sharing his expertise including speaking at the 2010 American Baseball Coaches Association’s convention that was held in Dallas in January 2010.
During his coaching career, Cohen has been honored as the Southland Conference Coach of the Year twice – once in 1998 when he led the Northwestern State Demons to a Southland Championship and a 40-20 record and once again in 2001 when the Demons earned another Southland Championship with a 38-17 record.
In 2005, Cohen was a member of the USA Baseball National Team and the following season led the Kentucky Wildcats to a 44-17 recording including a worst-to-first turnaround in the Southeastern Conference that culminated with an SEC Championship. For his efforts, Cohen was named the SEC/Association of Baseball Coaches of America South Region Coach of the Year and was named the National Coach of the Year.
Wyatt served a two-year stint as Northeast’s Sports Information Director from 2006-08 before leaving to host the popular drive-time sports talk show “The Sports Drive” on Miss 98 (97.5 FM) Monday-Fridays from 6-8 p.m.
Wyatt is currently the Director of Sports Development at the Tupelo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Wyatt also stays busy by hosting the Mississippi’s top choice for morning sports talk – “First Call with Matt Wyatt” which is broadcast from the Cellular South studios in Tupelo and can be heard on WXWX 96.3 in Tupelo, WBZL 103.3 in Greenville and the Mississippi delta, WDXO 92.9 in Brookhaven and Hazlehurst, WVBG 1490 AM in Vicksburg and WSFZ SuperSport 930 AM in Jackson.
Wyatt graduated from Mississippi State in May 2000 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sports Communication.
While at Mississippi State from 1995-2000, Wyatt was a member of the football team and played quarterback for coach Jackie Sherrill and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
After redshirting during the ’95 season, Wyatt played in 10 games for the Bulldogs in 1996 as a redshirt freshman, earning a starting spot in games played against South Carolina and Auburn. During his sophomore season at quarterback, Wyatt earned a starting position and helped MSU to a seven-win season. The former Prattville High School standout shared the quarterbacking duties with Wayne Madkin during his next two seasons earning four starting nods.
During the 1998 and 1999 seasons, Wyatt played in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta, Ga. (vs. Tennessee, 1998), in the Cotton Bowl (vs. Texas, 1998), led the largest fourth quarter comeback in MSU football history (vs. Auburn, 1999) and was part of a team that won ten games capped by a victory over Clemson in the Peach Bowl during the 1999 season.
Wyatt worked as a sports reporter for WTVA Television in Tupelo, Miss. from 2001-2003. In June of 2003, he accepted a position with WTVA as weekend sports anchor and reporter before joining the Northeast family in 2006.
In addition to the ‘First Pitch’ banquet, the Northeast Diamond Girls will hold a silent auction prior to the event.
Advance tickets are $20 and can be purchased from any Tiger baseball player or Diamond Girl. Tickets the day of the event will be $25 at the door.
For more information about Northeast’s First Pitch Banquet, contact Northeast head baseball coach Kent Farris at 662-720-7309 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
About Chris Elkins
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