The 2015 EBCA Convention is taking place for the first time in Lisbon, Portugal from November 13 to 15, 2015. We’ll introduce you to the speakers. Registration is possible via www.baseball-in-europe.com.
Meet the Speakers – Butch Thompson, Mississippi State University
Widely regarded as one of the premier pitching coaches in America, Mississippi State associate head coach Butch Thompson enters his eighth season on John Cohen’s staff in Starkville, one year removed from being named the 2014 Baseball America and American Baseball Coaches Association National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Having turned 23 student-athletes who went undrafted out of high school into Major League Baseball draft picks, the Amory, Miss., native’s resume speaks for itself. Player development is key for Thompson, who has been in the trenches for 14 seasons inside the Southeastern Conference and has over two decades of collegiate baseball coaching experience.
With experience comes success for the 1992 Birmingham-Southern graduate, both with his individual tutelage and his teams. Thompson has coached 22 Division I All-Americans and 29 all-conference honors, including 2014 All-American Jacob Lindgren, who made his MLB debut in Yankee Stadium in May 2015 and became the 10th player Thompson tutored to pitch in the big leagues.
The old adage “Pitching wins championships” still rings true for the mound vet, who has appeared in seven College World Series, including a national finalist finish in Omaha in 2013. Thanks in part to recruiting nine nationally-ranked recruiting classes, Thompson has been on nine conference championship teams and one national championship squad.
Inside the toughest conference in college baseball the past three seasons, Thompson has guided the Bulldogs to a nation-leading 264 double plays. The preaching of mental toughness has also rang true, as MSU is 168-4 under Thompson the last four seasons when holding a lead after eight innings.
The last two seasons, Thompson had three pitchers drafted in the first 11 rounds of the MLB Draft, and another one (Ben Bracewell) sign a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics. Lindgren became the second Yankee in history to make his MLB debut less than a year after being drafted. The Yankees, also drafted MSU junior Jonathan Holder, who finished his career with the most saves of any three-year player in SEC history (37) and ended 2015 in Triple-A. Righty Brandon Woodruff was taken in the 11th round by the Milwaukee Brewers.
In 2013, Thompson’s group was one of two nationally to finish in the top 15 in ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and hits allowed per nine innings. As a result of the success, Thompson saw five pitchers get drafted, including top-10 picks Kendall Graveman (8th Round, Toronto) and All-American Chad Girodo (9th Round, Toronto).
In addition to Girodo, Thompson also coached Holder and Ross Mitchell to All-American honors in 2013. Mitchell, a reliever, was the only pitcher in the country with at least 13 wins and zero losses, owning a microscopic 1.53 ERA. Holder, a closer, became the ninth player in NCAA history with 21 saves in a single season, tying the SEC single-season saves record in the process.
The previous season in 2012, the pitching general guided MSU’s staff to the nation’s second-lowest staff ERA (2.58), the best at State in nearly 40 seasons (1973). Thompson’s group ranked third in the SEC with 536 strikeouts and his hurlers came up big when it mattered most in the postseason, pitching State to five wins in six days en route to the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament Championship. Leading the group was Stratton, who ranked first or second in the league and among the nation’s leaders in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
In 2011, State pitchers ranked as the SEC league’s most improved after shaving 2.50 points off its staff ERA as the Bulldogs came within a win of a berth in the NCAA College World Series.
A Mississippi man at heart, Thompson prepped at Amory (Miss.) High School and later starred as a pitcher at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College for head coach Roy Cresap in 1989 and 1990. On Oct. 25, 2014, Thompson was inducted into the ICC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Thompson launched his coaching career as pitching coach and top assistant at Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Ala.) in 1993, before returning to his alma mater in Birmingham, where he helped he helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back Southern States Conference championships and in 1995 coached BSC to its first NAIA World Series berth.
Thompson left BSC briefly to serve as head coach at Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham in 1997. While at JSCC, he was honored as the Regional Tournament Coach of the Year, the ABCA Alabama Junior College Coach of the Year and the Southeast Region Coach of the Year after guiding JSCC to a 39-21 mark, the AJCAA Region 22 State Championship and a third-place finish in the NJCAA Division II World Series.
He returned to Birmingham-Southern as Shoop’s top assistant the following season, beginning a four-year run during the most successful span in BSC baseball history. The Panthers won 196 games and four TranSouth Conference championships and made three-consecutive appearances in the NAIA World Series. BSC’s 2001 team posted a school-best 55-11 mark and captured the NAIA National Championship.
In 2002, Thompson joined the SEC baseball coaching fraternity, beginning a four-year term as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia under head coach David Perno. Georgia’s 2003 recruiting class was ranked 10th nationally, while capturing the SEC title in 2004 en route to advancing to the NCAA College World Series.
Following the 2005, campaign he continued his SEC affiliation at Auburn, serving as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator on the staff of Tom Slater. Each of his three recruiting classes at Auburn was ranked among the nation’s top 18, including a No. 5 national ranking in 2007.
Thompson, honored as the 2006 Fellowship of Christian Athletes SEC Coach of the Year, has shared his expertise as a featured speaker at numerous baseball coaching clinics throughout America.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at BSC in 1992 and completed a master’s degree in sports administration at UAB in 1996. He is married to the former Robin Ashe of Birmingham, Ala., and they are the parents of three daughters — Anna, Olivia and Madelyn Gail.