Mingione Brings New Energy to Kentucky Baseball Program

When coaches, players and media members were asked to give their thoughts on new Kentucky baseball head coach Nick Mingione, the response was nearly universal.

Almost every respondent mentioned the word energy when describing the 37-year-old Florida native, who returns to Kentucky where he served as an assistant coach on the Wildcats’ staff under John Cohen from 2006-07.

Mingione displayed that energy at a press conference on Tuesday where he was introduced as the 26th coach in the school’s history.

"It was almost 11 years ago, almost to the day, I had never been on the campus of the University of Kentucky," Mingione said of his first trip to the Commonwealth. "I drove up on the campus, saw the most beautiful green grass I've ever seen. Saw the beautiful campus. Went and saw the field. It was at that moment that I thought to myself, I want to call this place home. There was no doubt in my mind that this was a place that you could win at."

Mingione was on Cohen’s staff during the magical 2006 season, when Kentucky went 44-17 and won its only SEC baseball regular season championship. And Mingione was on Cohen’s staff at Mississippi State this season, when the Bulldogs won their first regular season SEC title in 27 years.

“It’s impressive, what Nick has done,” UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said on Tuesday. “We knew from the time Nick was with us that one day, he would be in this spot.”

Cohen, who has had Mingione on his staff for a total of nine years, is a huge fan of the new Kentucky skipper.

“He is a combination of a high-energy, extreme-competitiveness with an intellectual component, an extremely creative mind with a single – there’s a purpose to everything he does," Cohen told Jon Hale of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "I guess the best way to say it is Nick Mingione does not give away one day of his life. Every day there’s purpose.”

Mingione’s hard work and high energy have paid off for his teams. He has recruited as well as any coach in the country, evidenced by the fact that his last three recruiting classes have been ranked third, third and second nationally. He has had 53 players drafted, has coached 35 All-Americans and five conference players of the year.

One of those conference players of the year came when Mingione was at Kentucky. In 2006, Wildcat first baseman Ryan Strieby earned the honor. On Tuesday, Strieby endorsed Mingione’s hiring.

“It’s an incredible hire, and (Mingione) has the type of energy and passion that is rare,” Strieby said. “He’s an intense competitor and he’ll set a standard for excellence.”

A pair of Strieby’s teammates agree with that assessment.

“The energy and the always-positive atmosphere that he devises, that’s what I think of the most,” said former Kentucky standout John Shelby III, who is now a scout in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. “He talks the talk and walks the walk. It’s definitely much-deserved for him to be in this position right now.”

“I’ve known Nick since his first year at Kentucky in 2006," former Kentucky All-American Collin Cowgill said. "From day one ever since he stepped on the scene, we had an incredible relationship. We have similar personalities as far as work ethic and how we care about our team and the program in general. He was always there. I would call him at 10 o’clock at night to go hit and he’d meet me at the cage. He’s just an incredible human being. He’s got an incredible work ethic. He truly cares about kids and the program."

Mingione didn’t hide from expectations in his introductory press conference.

I want to create a culture where we will mention Omaha daily,” Mingione said of the home of the College World Series. “We will mention Omaha on a daily basis. We're trying to get to Omaha. If you get to Omaha, you have a chance to win a national championship.”

Media members were also enthusiastic about Kentucky’s hiring of Mingione.

“Along with his strong coaching credentials, he will bring energy, confidence and kindliness to the Wildcats,” said Teddy Cahill of Baseball America.

D1Baseball.com’s Kendall Rogers agrees.

“Nick is one of the more dynamic personalities in the Southeastern Conference,” Rogers said. “He will bring some serious energy to the Kentucky program.”

Beginning on Tuesday, the Big Blue Nation saw that energy in action. And from the rave reviews that Mingione is receiving, that energy will undoubtedly boost the Kentucky baseball program.