LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – It is a new era of New Mexico State baseball. Mike Kirby takes over for Brian Green as head coach and the Aggies don’t expect to miss a beat.
NMSU returns three preseason All-Americans (INF Nick Gonzales, INF Tristan Peterson, RHP Chance Hroch) in 2020 and figures to compete for a WAC championship.
“I think everyone feels a little better when you have some All-Americans,” said Kirby. “That’s how it worked out, which is awesome and there’s a reason those guys are All-Americans. They are the first ones here and the last ones to leave.”
Green left his mark on a program that won just 11 games in 2015. He engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in all of college baseball as the Aggies won 34 games in 2016, 35 games in 2017, 40 games in 2018 and 38 games in 2019 before taking the job at Washington State. Now it is up to Kirby and the remaining players to keep the tradition alive.
“We learned a lot from Coach Green last year,” said Peterson. “We take that and combine it with what Coach Kirby has taught us this year. He brings a lot of experience, he’s coached a lot of big names and we listen to what he has to say.”
Kirby comes to NMSU from Nebraska and has a championship pedigree, having one won seven conference titles – including the 1995 College World Series championship at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton. He has seen 104 players selected in the MLB Draft during his coaching career – including 27 that have gone on to play in the Major Leagues.
Gonzales, a unanimous All-American who is projected by numerous publications to be a top five pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, knows the type of guidance he can get from a coach like Kirby.
“Coach Kirby is high energy and he’s brought a lot of good energy to us,” said Gonzales. “He’s pumping the guys up with cool stories with big leaguers he has coached, being in Omaha [College World Series] and everything he has accomplished.”
The feeling is mutual for Kirby.
“When I first walked through the door, the perception I had was that we are an offensive team, just by looking at the numbers. When I starting meeting the individuals here, I learned that they are special people. These guys have work ethics that are off the charts,” said Kirby.
NMSU will open the Kirby era on Friday against Texas Southern, the same team they opened the 2019 season with. While the Aggies don’t expect to outscore the Tigers 98-11 like they did last year in a four-game series, you can expect them to put up plenty of crooked numbers in 2020.