Mangum moment: MSU junior soaks in what could be final game in Starkville

MSU's Jake Mangum
Staff Writer

There’s no crying in baseball. At least that’s what the famed line from actor Tom Hanks’ character Jimmy Dugan said in the 1992 baseball-themed film, ’A League of Their Own.’

Yet post game on Saturday after Mississippi State polished off a series sweep over top-ranked Florida at Dudy Noble Field, Bulldogs centerfielder Jake Mangum didn’t hold back his feelings. He knew he might have just played his final game in Starkville. The magnitude of the day wasn’t lost on him.

“I wanted to cry the whole game,” Mangum admitted. “It’s emotional because you don’t know.”

Mangum’s uncertainty rests in his fate in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft. Mangum is one of college baseball’s best talents. Scouts think he may be selected highly.

That’s all in the future though. Saturday was all about the present. If it was the last time Mangum played at Dudy Noble, it couldn’t have been scripted any better.

In Mangum’s leadoff at-bat in the bottom of the first, he drilled the first pitch he saw for a home run. It was just Mangum’s second career homer and first of the season. Mangum couldn’t help but think there was something greater at work.

“It’s all God,” Mangum said of his blast. “(MSU outfielder Elijah) MacNamee came up to me after it happened and said, ‘Dude, that’s God talking to you right there.’ That was all him. It might be my last leadoff at-bat here ever and I hit a first-pitch home run. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Well, in actuality, it might have gotten slightly better for Mangum. MSU went on to win 13-6. With three wins over the Gators, it almost certainly means Mangum and the Bulldogs will be playing in an NCAA Regional next week in addition to this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament.

All this came after MSU began the year with just 14 wins in its first 29 games and carried a 2-7 SEC record after the year’s first three series.

“We just kept battling,” Mangum said. “We never gave up and we’re going to keep doing that.”

Mangum’s talent was one of the biggest factors in State’s turnaround. He is now hitting .350 this season. He has totaled 82 hits. Of those knocks, 24 are for extra bases. He also has 23 RBI and 51 runs scored.

Those numbers made Mangum a finalist for the 2018 Ferriss Trophy – an award presented annually to the top college baseball player in the state of Mississippi. That honor will be handed out today at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Mangum is looking to become a two-time winner after he took home the hardware in 2016. That was the same season Mangum burst onto the scene at Mississippi State and was chosen the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.

Now, a couple of seasons later, Mangum could be knocking on the door of the end of his MSU career. If he is in his final days in maroon and white, what a ride it has been he says.

“It has meant the world to me,” Mangum said of his MSU career. “This program means so much to me. I tried to be good to it and do all I can to win a national championship.”

Still, Mangum can’t say definitively that he’s going to begin his professional career this summer. After all, he’s been through this before and stayed. Just last year, Mangum was selected in the 30th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. He also took calls from teams looking to possibly take him in prior rounds as well, but in the end, Mangum wound up back in Starkville for this season.

Despite all the emotions of Saturday, a similar scenario to last year could at least possibly happen again. That didn’t stop Mangum from taking a few extra moments to soak things in Saturday as he ponders exactly what his future holds.

“I could play here again or I may never play here again the rest of my life,” Mangum said. “It’s sad.

“We’ll see what happens in the draft.”