Even before participating in three College World Series and coaching 16 would-be MLB players, new USF baseball coach Mark Kingston has had remarkable determination.
This determination, in part, stems from Kingston’s admiration of six-time All-Star Don Mattingly, his favorite baseball player growing up.
“(Mattingly) played the game the right way, he always had the utmost respect for the game,” Kingston said Thursday at a press conference, in which AD Mark Harlan introduced him to the USF community.
“That was the guy I tried to be,” he said. “I actually was a right-handed hitter growing up, and I fell in love with his swing so much that I turned myself into a switch-hitter my sophomore season.”
Kingston’s determination has not dwindled since his days of playing for North Carolina, as he spoke of his vision for USF baseball to become an “elite” program.
“If USF was a stock, I’d recommend you buy it right now,” he said.
Kingston renewed the hope of fans, players and alumni at the press conference as he spoke of his desire for players to be model athletes who work just as hard as if they were competing in Omaha.
“When they’re coming off the field from defense, I want it to look like they can’t wait to hit,” Kingston said. “When they’re going out from the dugout, I want it to look like they can’t wait to pitch and they can’t wait to play good defense. When you’re winning and things are going well, everybody plays hard. How do you play when you ground out, when you pop up, when you’re down by four? To me, that’s what separates the good teams from the great teams.”
Kingston has a history of transforming baseball teams, the most prominent example being his stint as head coach at Illinois State for five years.
“It went from a program that was at the bottom of the league to one that I think people now expect to be one of the more competitive programs in the Midwest,” ISU assistant coach Mike Current said.
Kingston led the Redbirds to two Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championships and broke the single-season school wins record twice. He also compiled more than 30 wins in each of his five seasons as head coach. In two of these seasons, Kingston earned MVC Coach of the Year.
Before ISU, Kingston spent seven seasons as a recruiting coordinator for Tulane, where he recruited or coached seven players who became All-Americans.
Kingston’s eye for talent and knack for developing skill is evident as six Redbirds were selected in this year’s MLB Draft, an ISU record. Only three of them had been drafted out of high school.
Kingston brings a shining track record to USF, but ISU assistant coach Bo Durkac said USF is also getting a “high-energy” coach who treats his players the way he would expect his three children to be treated.
“He is involved, whether it’s throwing (at batting practice), doing various drills, organizing practices to accommodate hitters or watching videos with hitters,” Durkac said. “He’s very much a hands-on coach, very much an open-door coach. Anybody that needs to talk to him, whether it’s an assistant coach, player, trainer, academic advisor, whoever, the door’s always open for Mark.”
As Kingston makes the move to USF, it appears as though two of his assistants will be coming with him. According to their Twitter accounts, Current and Bill Mohl will be heading to USF to continue coaching with Kingston.
Kingston said he’s excited to coach in Florida, a place he fell in love with nearly 30 years ago when his team took a train from Washington, D.C., to Winter Haven to play at Doyle Baseball Camp.
“I’ve been in love with baseball and Florida since 1986, and to think I’m here now as a head coach, I’m very humbled,” he said.