Sept. 19, 2013


Meet McNeese State's Justin Hill

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder @collbaseball


Ten 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 hinder you?

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 McNeese opening?

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 McNeese?

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 those values. 


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)