Opening day of baseball means the sights and sounds of America’s past time, and Mississippi State University's pride and joy return, as the players put on their uniforms with the classic M over S.
For Jake Mangum, a senior center fielder from Pearl, it will be his last opening day as a Bulldog. It will also be head coach Chris Lemonis’s first.
“He gives me goosebumps when I see the way he talks and when he talks about the 'M over S,'” Lemonis said. “That's what I get from the players more than anything is how much it means to be a part of this program. You see that from Jake, and he has had an experience here and it's been a lot. There's nobody else that loves this program more than that kid. I lean on him.”
Mangum said the record for hits and other records within reach are not why he chose to stay for his senior year.
“Time here is very valuable and like it or not, it’s my last year,” Mangum said. “That (records) wasn’t a factor about coming back, but we’ll give it one more crack at it and we’ll give it all we’ve got.”
Mangum has had four different coaches in his career as a Bulldog, but he said this year will not be different. He said he hopes to take full advantage of another year in an MSU uniform because it is truly a privilege to play in it.
“If I talked to Burke Masters right now, what would he say? He would love to be out there today,” Mangum said. “He would love to be out there in a 20-degree game in the snow. He would love to go back out there and wear this (uniform) one more time.”
MSU baseball legends Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, nicknamed Thunder and Lightning, will have their statues unveiled at 1:30 Friday before the game, offering a reminder of the great Bulldogs who have worn the spikes and played at Dudy Noble Field.
As opening day hits, the biggest priority has not changed from last year. While MSU has gone to 12 College World Series, it has yet to do one thing—their number one priority this season according to Mangum.
“It’s to win a National Championship," Mangum said. “It’s still that one thing missing about our program. That is the ultimate goal.”