Innings with Jake Boss, Jr.
By Phil Stanton
There is a new Boss in East Lansing.
Former Eastern Michigan head coach Jake Boss,
Jr., has taken over the program at Michigan State. In his first season with the Eagles this past
spring, Boss led EMU to the MAC Championship and a berth in the
NCAA Tournament. The Eagles started 0-17 before winning 25 of 40
entering regional play. Boss was 2008 MAC Coach of the Year.
A native of Lansing, Mich., Boss was an assistant
coach and recruiting coordinator at Michigan for three years
after serving as an assistant at EMU for seven seasons.
Boss played from 1989-93 at Alma College and
earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 1993. He received a
Master’s Degree in Physical Education from Eastern Michigan in
First Inning – You grew up in Lansing. What
does it mean to you to be the head coach at Michigan State?
It is a dream come true for me to be the head
coach at Michigan State. My family was always Spartan fans
growing up and it's a thrill for me to come home to East Lansing
and be a part of the athletic department at MSU. There are
great people here, starting at the top with Athletics Director
Mark Hollis, and I am truly honored and humbled to be here.
Second Inning – When did you decide you wanted to pursue coaching as a profession?
Sometime in college I decided I wanted to coach
and teach at the high school level. I didn't enjoy being in the
classroom as much as I thought I would, so I decided to try to
make coaching college baseball a full-time profession while I
was still young enough to be able to afford to do so.
Third Inning – You played at Division III Alma
College. What drove you to coach at the Division I level?
I always wanted to play at the highest level, but
was not blessed with the type of physical ability to do so. I
enjoyed my career at Alma College, and when I got into coaching
full time, my goal was to lead a team at the highest level I
could attain. I've been very blessed to have been given
opportunities to prove myself at the Division I level and have
been fortunate to have coached some outstanding players with a
great deal of talent.
Fourth Inning – What do you say to your team
when it starts 0-17? How did you keep Eastern Michigan together
and win the MAC to earn an NCAA Regional bid? How rewarding was
that Regional berth?
Those young men at Eastern Michigan are winners,
and they proved that at the end of last season. We had a
horrific start to the season, one I wouldn't wish on anyone...we
had played poorly and lost, and we had played well and lost.
But those kids are resilient and they stayed together and kept
believing that we could do great things if we just kept working
hard and focused on us and what we could do to improve. As a
coach, there is no better feeling than watching your players
storm out of the dugout after the last out of the championship
game and jump on each other in celebration of winning a title.
Words really can't express how rewarding that Regional berth
was...it's something that we all are very proud of and something
that I will never forget.
Fifth Inning – How important are the additions
of a new indoor facility and a new stadium for MSU baseball?
The new indoor facility at Michigan State is a
tremendous asset for our ball club from a skill development
standpoint and a recruiting standpoint. It is an outstanding
facility and really shows the commitment that Mark Hollis and
his entire staff have made to our program and the entire
athletics department at MSU. The new stadium will provide one
of the best atmospheres I've ever been around in college
baseball. The generosity of Drayton McLane is overwhelming and
we are extremely excited to open the new stadium next spring.
It's good for Michigan State, it's good for the Big Ten, and
it's good for baseball in the north.
Sixth Inning – You have been coaching in the
state of Michigan since 1997. How important is it for MSU
recruiting to have strong contacts within the state?
The state of Michigan is my home and I'm familiar
with the tremendous talent this state has produced throughout
the years. It will be a priority for us to begin in Michigan
and work out from there. The high school coaches in this state
do an outstanding job of preparing their kids for the next level
and it's our task to keep them close to home.
Seventh Inning – What did you learn about Big
Ten baseball in three seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan?
The Big Ten is an outstanding conference that
doesn't always get it's just due on a national level. There are
several outstanding teams in this league that can compete with
anybody in the nation while producing a large amount of high
draft picks on a yearly basis. It's a deep and talented league
that is worthy of multiple NCAA regional bids. I truly believe
the Big Ten embodies what the student-athlete experience ought
to be and I'm fortunate to be a part of that.
Eighth Inning – What do you think about the
Big Ten changing conference series from four games to three?
I'm in favor of going to a three-game series and
eliminating the doubleheader on the weekend. We went through a
similar change when I was an assistant in the MAC and it proved
to be a positive change, especially from a pitching standpoint.
It will help from a depth perspective in mid-week games that are
so important when it comes to RPI and NCAA at-large berths at
the end of the year.
Ninth Inning – What are your thoughts on the
Big East/Big Ten Challenge?
I think the Big East/Big Ten Challenge is a great
idea and will be a positive for each school involved from both
leagues. The Big East is a very talented conference and we're
looking forward to competing against them to open the 2009
season. Hopefully we can generate fan support in the
Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg communities and draw well to add
to the experience of playing against quality teams in very good
Tenth Inning – Many teams are playing
exhibition games this fall against outside competition. Is that
something you will look to do with the Spartans?
It is something that we would look into for the
future if we can determine it is in the best interest of our
student athletes. I think we could do some very creative things
and tie a fall game into a home football weekend that would
provide a special atmosphere on campus for everyone involved. I
would prefer, however, to remain at 56 regular season games in
the spring and if playing a fall exhibition game jeopardizes
that, then we may think twice about it. The other issue with a
fall game is the impact on eligibility for our first-year
players. If playing in a game in the fall will continue to
count as a full season of eligibility for our student athletes,
then we would have to take a hard look at how we approach
competing in the fall and who we would want to play in the fall
(photos courtesy of Michigan State Media Relations Office)