OMAHA, Neb. – Father’s Day is an occasion for sons and daughters all over to find ways to show appreciation to their dads.
If you’re looking to give your old man a better gift than Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis is giving his though, you’re most likely going to be completely out of luck.
The Bulldogs will take the field Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. at T.D. Ameritrade Park to open up their run in this year’s College World Series. It’s Lemonis’ first-ever trip to Omaha as a head coach. One of the many MSU fans that’ll pack the stadium tonight is Lemonis’ father Thomas, who not only will get to see his son be a head coach on college baseball’s biggest stage for the first time, but will get to root on Chris while he guides Thomas’ alma mater towards a possible national championship.
Chris was just a newborn back in 1973 when his life’s journey essentially began where it now sits once more – in Starkville. Thomas was finishing up an engineering degree at Mississippi State before baby Chris could even walk. The Lemonis clan lived in on-campus married housing.
Jump ahead some four and a half decades, and here is Chris guiding the same school his dad attended in one of the premier events in all of sports.
“It’s been really cool,” Chris said of getting to coach the Bulldogs to Omaha given his family’s previous ties to MSU. “It’s been a really cool year for (my dad) and my mom. They’ve enjoyed baseball more than they ever have. They’re older and probably not doing the best, but they’ve been able to be at all the games and enjoy this team too.”
It’s ironic that Chris has been afforded this chance to coach at his dad’s old school. Back when Chris was hired, MSU Athletic Director John Cohen said Thomas’ previous ties to the Bulldogs had no role whatsoever in Chris getting the job.
“But I did look at it as divine inspiration,” Cohen said at the time.
Thomas was overjoyed when Chris got the gig. Chris noted his father and mother’s reaction at his introductory press conference last summer.
“My dad is really happy now,” Lemonis said. “(My parents were both) in tears when I told them (I got the MSU job).”
Thomas always had a soft spot in his heart for Mississippi State after graduating. While the Lemonis family left Starkville, Starkville never really left them. Lemonis has said his family had a cowbell on the refrigerator when he was growing up.
When events like the Egg Bowl rolled around, Thomas and the household bled maroon and white.
“The family always did (root for Mississippi State),” Lemonis said. “We didn’t live near (Starkville) so we didn’t come back for games and things, but on Thanksgiving, the Egg Bowl is on and you’re cheering for one team. That’s been since my childhood.”
Things have now changed. With Chris now calling the shots for the Diamond Dogs, the family does make it back to campus pretty frequently. They’re of course in Omaha too and Thomas will be watching on with pride as, on Father’s Day, Chris guides their Bulldogs in the College World Series.
It should be a happy Father’s Day indeed for Thomas Lemonis.
“It’s really cool,” Chris said again.