Texas A&M came after an Ole Miss assistant, looking to upgrade its baseball program, and for now they have come up empty.
Mike Clement, current Ole Miss hitting and third base coach, turned down a reported offer for the same job with the Aggies, according to Ole Miss Rivals’ Chase Parham. Texas A&M were on the wrong side of the hosting bubble this season and likely lost its bid to the Rebels after Ole Miss swept them in the regular season AND made a remarkable run to the SEC Tournament championship game.
Clement has coached the Rebel offense to more than 70 home runs in the last two seasons (153 to be exact), and the 2018 group was the only team in the SEC to have a team batting average over .300 en route to 48 wins.
More impressive in this news is that Clement was previously employed by A&M from 2009-2011 as an assistant coach. Clearly, this would be a lateral move of sorts, and maybe the Aggies were going to give him more cash (see: yes, that’s a total TAMU move), but he ultimately decided against moving to Texas and is staying put in Oxford.
It’s interesting on a few fronts for die-hard Rebel fans who were upset with the inability to get back to Omaha for the College World Series again this year. It’s unlikely changes to the coaching staff at Ole Miss are imminent if one of the assistants is turning down a new job at a new locale.
Secondly, former Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork announced a move to College Station in the last month, but alas, Clement was happy to stay in Oxford in what is potentially now a more stable program. He is also welcoming in ANOTHER top-five recruiting class.
And lastly, Mike Bianco, while being the absolute bane of some fans’ existence, is able to keep a talented coach in his tutelage with said recruiting class coming in, reloading a roster that will lose several players to graduation and draft signings. Clement has shown the ability to groom players at the dish over two years, specifically catchers Henri Lartigue and Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger and Thomas Dillard.
Lartigue went from hitting .225 to leading the 2016 team with a .353 average and lifting his on-base and OPS percentages by 200+ points. King Henri was then drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round. Johnson was a highly-ranked recruit upon his arrival but he struggled at the plate.
Clement was able to turn things around with Coop, too, raising his average from .235 to .271 this year. He was also able to produce big-time power numbers as a junior, slugging eight home runs and driving in 32 runs.
The other two main pupils for Clement were also highly-rated coming out of Oxford High School yet they struggled as true freshmen, too. Despite a .175 average in his first year, Kessinger hit .300 as a sophomore then really turned it on as a junior, hitting .330, driving in 50 runs, winning the Brooks Wallace Award for the nation’s best short stop, and being named First Team All-American. Grae was taken in the 2nd-round by the Astros and signed last week to begin his professional career.
His counterpart Dillard struggled, too. Then Clement got his hands on him and the rest was history. In his first year in Oxford, he hit .206 and had a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In year two, he hit .310 while crushing 13 home runs and 59 RBI’s.
Then, this past year, he was moved around a little in the lineup before settling in at the leadoff spot, hitting .298 with 10 home runs, 45 RBI’s and 50 walks. He set the Ole Miss record for walks in a season and his OPS was just under 1.000, settling at .945 despite being asked to do a ton for the Rebs.
This seemingly innocuous news about assistants in baseball could signal the next two seasons are going to be fun and full of plenty of more wins - hopefully that return trip to Omaha is in the cards for a beleaguered fanbase ready for a championship in its most popular sport.