Butch Thompson By The Numbers
Widely regarded as one of the premiere pitching coaches in America, Mississippi State associate head coach Butch Thompson enters his sixth season on head coach John Cohen’s staff in Starkville. Expectations are high for Thompson’s 2014 staff, which includes two returning All-Americans and a total of 12 pitchers who top 90 or higher on the radar gun.
Having 22 student-athletes who went undrafted out of high school and turned them 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 12 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 players to 21 total Division I All-American honors and 27 all-conference honors, including 2013 SEC Pitcher of the Year and San Francisco Giants’ first-round pick Chris Stratton, who is on his way to becoming the seventh player Thompson has tutored who has made it to “The Show.”
The old adage “Pitching wins championships” still rings true for the mound vet, who has appeared in seven College World Series, including the 2013 CWS Championship Series in Omaha. Thanks in part to recruiting eight 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 two seasons, Thompson has guided the Bulldogs to a nation-leading 151 double plays. In almost 70 percent of games the last two campaigns, MSU has given up four runs or less (92 times), winning 84 percent of the time when doing so (77-15). The preaching of mental toughness has also come in handy, as MSU is 114-1 under Thompson the last three seasons when holding a lead after eight innings.
This past season, Thompson’s group was one of two nationally to finish in the top 15 nationally 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 Kendrall Graveman (8th Round, Toronto) and All-American Chad Girodo (9th Round, Toronto).
In addition to Girodo, Thompson also coached lefty Ross Mitchell and righty Jonathan Holder 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 helped guide 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 earned run average.
In 2011, State pitchers ranked as the SEC league's most improved in 2011 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 Coach Roy Cresap in 1989 and 1990. 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 baseball 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 Southeastern Conference baseball coaching fraternity, beginning a four-year term as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Georgia under head coach David Perno. Georgia's 2003 recruiting class was ranked 10th nationally and UGA captured the 2004 SEC title and advanced through the NCAA Tournament 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.