Jake Mangum's father has been driving force for his success

John and Jake Mangum
Staff Writer

The date was April 24.

Mississippi State was in a battle with instate rival Ole Miss in the Governor’s Cup down in Pearl. It was a tie game in the eighth inning. Nick Fortes came to bat for the Rebels with a runner at first and nobody out. Fortes smashed the baseball toward the right-centerfield gap. It was destined to be at least an RBI double that would give Ole Miss the lead. That was until MSU center fielder Jake Mangum, on a dead sprint, fully extended to make one of the most spectacular catches of State’s 2018 season.

The Bulldogs went on to win the game 7-6. Mangum’s defensive play was one of the contest’s biggest moments. Yet Mangum took no credit for his highlight-reel grab. Instead, he gave all the kudos to his father.

“Growing up, me and my dad went out to Shiloh Park in Brandon,” Mangum said following the game. “He just hit me pop flies for hours on end, so that (catch) was John Mangum right there. That ain’t me. That’s all him. As many times as I didn’t want to get up to go work at baseball at all, he dragged me out there. I thank him for that.”

Jake Mangum’s great catch down in Pearl is only one of many great moments he has supplied Mississippi State over his three seasons with the Bulldogs. It has been a career full of clutch hits, on-the-money throws and diving grabs.

It’s why Mangum has become arguably the most popular current MSU baseball player and why statistically – even with the rest of this year and another full season in front of him – he’s already one of the best ever to put on the maroon and white.

There are surely many out there that would like to thank Mangum for all he’s done. Meanwhile Mangum’s thanks goes to his dad.

“He’s been everything,” Mangum said. “I wouldn’t be playing college baseball if it weren’t for him.”

John Mangum isn’t as quick to accept all the credit for his boy’s talent. Sure, the elder Mangum spent many days throwing batting practice and working with his son’s defensive skills, but John says the root of all the work was Jake’s desire.

“Jake has always wanted to put the time in to get better,” John said. “When he was young, he played on a travel team and it was a really good team and he was one of the younger guys on it, so he had to work to keep up.

As he got older, his body started to change and he just kept getting better. Putting in the work has never been a problem for him. As long as he wanted to work, I was willing to do my part.”

Though Jake and John Mangum might each deflect credit for exactly who developed Jake into the ballplayer he is, there is no argument that Jake’s career has already been a rousing success. In fact, it has pretty much been that way from the moment Jake stepped foot on campus in Starkville.

Jake was chosen the 2016 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and was picked first team All-SEC that season as he led the Bulldogs with a .408 batting average.

He followed that up in 2017 with a season in which he was tabbed second team All-SEC as well as being placed on the SEC All-Defensive Team. This year, Mangum earned first team All-SEC honors again, as well as his second-straight season being chosen to the SEC All-Defensive Team.

Mangum hasn’t just enjoyed individual accolades though. He’s helped the Bulldogs pile up the wins as well. State won the 2016 SEC regular season championship. MSU advanced to super regionals in both 2016 and 2017. Before last weekend, pretty much the only thing that had eluded Mangum was a super regional win and a trip to the College World Series. That box became checked a week ago when State toppled Vanderbilt to get to Omaha.

Last night, Mangum stood in centerfield at T.D. Ameritrade Park on college baseball’s grandest stage for the very first time. Watching on was a proud father who helped pave the way for his son to experience it.

“That has always been his goal since he was a little kid,” John Mangum said. “Getting to Omaha is something he has always dreamed of doing. He got (to MSU) his first year and that team was absolutely loaded, but we still weren’t able to get to Omaha. The last two years, there have been a lot of things going on and a lot of turnover, so you just didn’t know if it was a possibility of getting to Omaha before he left school, then this just kind of happens. We kind of come out of nowhere and start playing well. It has just been a magical run for Jake and his teammates.”

Jake will spend the next few days trying to add one more line to his already-impressive MSU career resume. He’s going to do all he can to bring the Bulldogs their first-ever national championship. While that’s his focus, don’t expect him to forget his dad – the man that helped forge Jake into who he is today.

“He dragged me out to the baseball field on days I didn’t want to go out there,” Jake said. “He’s raised me how I needed to be raised. He has pushed me all the time. He’s shown me how to do things the right way and he has mentally showed me how to take on baseball.

“He has been a huge part of my life.”