Cannizaro takes reins of MSU baseball program

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, November 8, 2016

STARKVILLE — Andy Cannizaro is Louisiana born and bred, but on Monday he happily transferred his allegiances to his home state’s neighbor.

Cannizaro was introduced as Mississippi State’s next baseball coach at a news conference Monday in Starkville. He was hired Saturday to replace John Cohen, who last week became Mississippi State’s Director of Athletics.

The 37-year-old Cannizaro was born in Mandeville, Louisiana, played college baseball at Tulane and spent the past three seasons as LSU’s hitting coach. This is Cannizaro’s first head coaching job, and he wasted no time espousing his excitement for it.

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“We are talking about one of the most tradition-based baseball programs in all of America, whether we are talking about amateur baseball or professional baseball,” Cannizaro said. “Mississippi State baseball is a national brand. It is a program that is recognized coast-to-coast by Major League Baseball all the way down to the travel baseball world. I am extremely honored to be the baseball coach here.”

Cannizaro’s rise from journeyman major leaguer to Southeastern Conference head coach has been swift.
Cannizaro played a total of 14 games over two seasons in the majors with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. He also played in the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox minor league organizations before retiring in 2009.

Cannizaro joined the Yankees as a scout after his playing days were over. He left that job to become LSU’s hitting coach in 2014, and just three years later is getting his first shot as a head coach at any level.

“I am blown away, that at 37 years old, I was selected to be the head baseball coach at MSU,” Cannizaro said.

Cannizaro added that his courtship with Mississippi State seemed to happen just as fast. Cohen was promoted to athletics director last Thursday, and less than 24 hours later he had made Cannizaro his first major hire.

“’Whirlwind’ would be an understatement. Friday morning, we had a meeting in Baton Rouge with all of our players letting them know what was going on. That was one of the hardest meetings I have ever had in my life. I love those kids so much and they gave us everything they had,” Cannizaro said. “Later that night, becoming the head baseball coach at MSU, and addressing an entirely new group of players is something that I am still trying to wrap my head around. This has been one of the craziest 72 hours of my life, but one of the best 72 hours of my life.”

Despite Cannizaro’s inexperience, Cohen had no qualms about giving him a shot. Cannizaro’s background in player development, Cohen said, made him the perfect candidate.

“He has an outstanding resume as a recruiter and scout in evaluating and developing talent. He’s been around some of the best minds in all of baseball during his college and professional career. His personality and knowledge of the game will benefit our players,” said Cohen, who led MSU’s baseball program from 2009-16.

Cannizaro will hit the ground running. The early signing period begins Wednesday, and he’ll oversee a fall scrimmage the same day.

Cannizaro said assistant coach Will Coggin has done a good job of finishing the recruiting period and bringing in this year’s class.

Combined with a number of returning starters from a team that reached the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament, Cannizaro was excited to begin a new era for both himself and the Bulldogs.

“We have so many pieces on our team this year to continue to build on the SEC Championship from a year ago,” Cannizaro said. “We have returning All-Americans and returning draft picks that came back to finish their degree. I am so fired up to be a part of what you guys have built here.”