These boxing gloves have become the symbols of the fighting spirit Mississippi State baseball coach Andy Cannizaro wants his players to have. The gloves accompanied No. 13 MSU on its trip to Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend for a three-game series against No. 17 South Carolina. The series begins at 6 p.m. today. Photo by: Brett Hudson/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
April 14, 2017 10:00:51 AM
STARKVILLE -- The most coveted gloves in the Mississippi State baseball program aren't of the batting or fielding variety.
They also already have been defaced by multiple writings in black marker.
MSU's new favorite trophy is a pair of boxing gloves, a symbol of the fight coach Andy Cannizaro has tried instill in his team after a 0-3 start in Southeastern Conference play. After a win -- and only after wins -- the player that throws the best metaphorical punch in a game gets to sign the gloves.
The gloves have collected a lot of ink.
Since Cannizaro introduced the gloves, No. 13 MSU (23-12, 8-4 SEC) is 11-2, including 4-0 away from Dudy Noble Field. The gloves will make the trip to Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend for a three-game series at No. 17 South Carolina (21-10, 8-4). Game 1 begins at 6 tonight.
"We're going to throw punches. That's what we do," MSU second baseman Hunter Stovall said. "We're going to get in the ring, we're going to fight, we're not going to give up."
Cannizaro said he came up with the idea sitting in his office trying to find what was missing from the team during its losing skid. He had a strong feeling talent wasn't the team's issue and started looking for anything that could provide a mental spark. He returned to his mantra of making at-bats "fistfights in the batter's box."
"The boxing gloves are a symbol of I want guys who are going to get in the ring and fight," Cannizaro said. "I want guys that are going to get in the middle of the ring, throw punches, and land punches. It's really a symbol of what we do.
"It doesn't matter who we have, we're going to fight."
The message was an immediate hit.
"Get in the ring and throw punches," MSU relief pitcher Trey Jolley said. "You might get hit, you might lose one, but bounce back and keep punching."
The gloves have become a source of pride for the players -- or coaches -- that earn the honors. The players chose to let pitching coach Gary Henderson sign the gloves Sunday after a series-clinching victory against Kentucky. Henderson was the head coach at Kentucky for eight years before resigning and coming to MSU.
Senior catcher Josh Lovelady takes great pride when he gets to sign the gloves, particularly following MSU's sweep of Ole Miss. In Game 2 of the series March 31, Lovelady's RBI triple provided an insurance run that was crucial in a 5-3 win.
"You come up in a huge situation with guys in scoring position with two outs and you're asked to bring those guys in," Lovelady said. "You're not going to bring those guys in every time, but when you get that chance, you get that pitch over the plate and you make a good swing on it, that's a big deal for me."
The player who signs the gloves the most will keep them at the end of the season. The current leader is Brent Rooker.
n NOTES: Cannizaro didn't name starting pitchers for Saturday and Sunday. Konnor Pilkington will start tonight. ... Cannizaro hopes center fielder/pitcher Jake Mangum will be able to play after injuring his wrist last weekend against Kentucky. The injury is to his left wrist. Cannizaro said it's possible Mangum will play center field Sunday and not take the mound, as he has for several weeks.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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