By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, JUNE 16, 2014 – New USF baseball coach Mark Kingston has plans to help build the Bulls up to elite status and his winning philosophy includes a playing style that will be fun to watch.
USF Nation already knows the Bulls have the pitching with ace Jimmy Herget leading the talented collection of arms and Kingston wants to make sure they’re getting plenty of support by using an aggressive style at the plate and on the base paths.
“I place a premium on speed and power,” Kingston said at his introductory press conference last week.
Power wasn’t a problem across the country until metal bat modifications were implemented in 2011, which reduced the amount of home runs being hit. Since then, teams have had to manufacture runs in a more creative way and that’s what the Bulls plan to do next season and beyond.
“These days with the BB Core bats, it is hard to score runs. It is hard to bunch a lot of hits together so what you need is to be able to score with one hit,” Kingston said. “You need a walk, a stolen base and a bloop hit, and you have a run. You have a walk and a double - that scores a run.
“You have to have speed and power, as much of it as you can in your lineup,” Kingston continued. “Power leads to walks, which leads to on-base percentage, which leads to getting pitch counts up. From an offensive standpoint, we are going to try and have as much speed and power as we can.”
Kingston definitely knows what it takes to get the job done from an offensive standpoint. The former two-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year has made three College World Series trips as a coach and player, and he’s coming off five consecutive 30-plus win seasons at Illinois State. Before that, the former North Carolina Tar Heel student-athlete picked up valuable experience as an assistant at Purdue, Tulane and perennial powerhouse Miami.
“We can, we should and we will be an elite program (at USF),” Kingston said. “We will. It is not going to happen overnight. It is going to happen brick by brick, but we will be an elite program. There is nothing that says we shouldn’t be an elite program.”
Getting to the upper echelon of college baseball will take continuous progression on the recruiting trails and Kingston plans to add more speed and power to the lineup while the program continues to build a winning mentality.
“You create a great program, you create a great culture that they want to be a part of. It is that simple,” Kingston said. “You explain your vision to them. This is where we are going to get, this is how we are going to get there. How it is going to affect them, how you are going to help them develop. If you backup your words with the right program players want to be a part of, the recruits start coming in, it is that simple. But you have to back-up your talk.”
And while the Bulls work to back up the talk they won’t necessarily be walking the walk anywhere on the field because Kingston expects USF to hustle every day, especially when it’s time to get the job done at the plate.
“When our team is getting off the field from defense, I want it to look like they can’t wait to hit. When they are going out from the dugout, I want it to look like they can’t wait to pitch and they can’t wait to play great defense,” Kingston said. “When you are winning, everybody plays hard. How do you play when you groundout, when you popup, when you are down by four? To me, that is what separates the good teams from the great teams.”
Kingston learned to play the game the right way by watching Don Mattingly, his favorite player, become a great model for young baseball players during his time as a first baseman with the New York Yankees. Under Kingston, the Bulls will serve as great examples for youngsters attending games on campus as the program continues to move forward as fast as possible.
“We will be a team you are proud to support. We will be out there in the community. We will do everything we can to make this a better community but you will also have a lot of fun watching us play,” Kingston said. “We will be the team where you tell your kid that is how you want to play. That is how you want to act. That is very important to me.”
Lots of hard work must be done for the Bulls to take their game to the next level and having a winning mentality like Kingston possesses will help USF get there sooner rather than later.
“If USF was a stock, I would recommend you buy right now,” Kingston said. “We think there is great growth potential.”