Sept. 19, 2013
McNeese State's Justin Hill
By Sean Ryan
years after he got into college coaching, Justin Hill is a head
coach for the first time.
The road to McNeese State has been well-traveled.
Hill, 33 and a former pitcher for Skip Bertman at
LSU, started his college coaching career at Northwestern State
under Mitch Gaspard, now the coach at Alabama. He spent a season
at LSU assisting Smoke Laval before moving to Sam Houston State,
where he assisted ABCA Hall of Fame coach Mark Johnson. He then
spent four seasons as the pitching coach and recruiting
coordinator at Southeastern Louisiana with Jay Artigues before
shifting to Louisiana-Monroe for two years under Jeff
Schexnaider. Schexnaider actually gave Hill his first coaching
job: He hired him as a high school assistant at West Monroe
(La.) High School in 2003.
An avid New Orleans Saints fan, Hill will guide a
Cowboys team that went 13-14 in the Southland Conference and
23-31 overall in 2013.
First Inning - When you got into coaching, did
you envision becoming a head coach at such a young age?
At some point I hoped to get head coaching
opportunity. I just wanted to make sure that if that opportunity
arrived, I would be prepared. I’ve been very fortunate to have
some great mentors who were always willing to help a young
coach. When you first start out, you don’t realize just how few
and far between opportunities come along. I just tried to do the
best job I could at each stop while learning as much as I could
from as many people as I could.
Second Inning - How does your age help or
No matter how old you are, to make a difference,
you have earn their trust. I told our team before our first
practice that I don't assume their trust. I plan on earning it.
Third Inning - You’ve assisted legendary
coaches and young stars in the profession. What are three of the
most important things you’ve learned that you’ll put into use as
a head coach?
Integrity. Passion. Humility. How’s that for
simple? The thing is, the simplest things are sometimes the
hardest things to do.
Fourth Inning - What attracted you to the
I was very familiar with the program because of
the time I had spent in the state and in the conference. There
is a great recruiting base here in Southwest Louisiana, and the
support from the community has been tremendous. You can’t go
anywhere without running into someone who played baseball here.
The alumni here are very proud.
Fifth Inning - What are a few short-term and
long-term goals for the Cowboys?
Our goal is immediate success. We have a great
group of seniors who have invested a great deal into our program
and we expect to have a good year. Ultimately, we want to put
our program in a position to compete for championships year in
and year out.
Sixth Inning - A pitcher and pitching coach by
trade, how much influence will you have on the pitchers at
Mentality is what separates champions. Our
primary focus on the mound has been on our mentality. Every team
has hard throwers, soft-tossers and specialty guys. With few
exceptions, there is little physical difference with most teams.
The toughest pitchers are the ones you win with.
Seventh Inning - What is the toughest thing
about being a recruiting coordinator?
For me, it was always balance. I have always
viewed myself as a coach first and foremost, but in the position
I was always in, I had to balance being the pitching coach for
our current team while looking toward the future of the program.
I hated missing practice, especially intrasquads because a
pitcher will only throw one time during the week. It’s hard to
help a pitcher break down his performance if you didn’t see it.
Eighth Inning - After your playing career
ended with an injury, why did you get into coaching?
Probably the same reason most coaches get into
the profession: I love the game. Ever since I was a kid, I have
always had a passion for baseball, but as I’ve grown older (and
hopefully wiser), my love for the game has given way to a
greater purpose. Our job is to help our young men grow to become
great men, husbands and dads. We just use baseball to help teach
Ninth Inning - In 10 years as an assistant,
what are some of your proudest moments?
The championships are the easy answer. Each of
those teams accomplished something that will forever connect us.
However the best moments are still happening. Every so often I
get a call or text message from a former player who lets me know
he is getting married or about to have a baby. The fact that
they would even think of me during those important moments in
their lives is incredibly humbling.
(photo courtesy of McNeese State Media Relations Office)