June 26, 2003

Mitch Barnhart, Director of Athletics

“We have an opportunity to build on what Keith Madison has established and take the program to another level. Keith and I have had some good visits, and we discussed where I would like the program to go, where he would like it to go, and Keith has been side-by-side in helping us determine the future of the Kentucky baseball program.”

a-062603barnhart.jpg“For the last two months, we’ve been watching the college baseball results come in and talking to people. We took our time in looking around, and a lot of names popped up. One name kept coming up the top in a lot of different areas and that was John Cohen. We watched him a little bit this spring and kept track of his success with what he was able to do offensively at Florida. We think he brings a lot to the table. More importantly, what John has done as a player and coach in this conference, and his success as a young head coach (at Northwestern State), along with his organizational skills and ability to teach the game and relate to the players sets him apart. That’s what excited us about our conversations with John.”

“From a college baseball perspective, we play in the most difficult conference in the country. The SEC has the strongest RPI ratings every year. People will tell you that Kentucky, being the northern-most school in the conference is a big disadvantage. John came in and said that being the northern-most school in the SEC is a real advantage, not a disadvantage, and we really liked his approach in that regard. Schools like Nebraska and Notre Dame have made the College World Series and made great strides with their baseball programs, so it can be done. We think John can get us in those situations where we’re in the NCAA regionals, the super-regionals, and we hope Omaha for the College World Series.”

Kentucky Head Baseball Coach John Cohen

“I’m tremendously honored to be here. This is a culmination of a childhood dream to be the head coach in the best league in America and at one of the best schools in America. I’ve always been a big Kentucky fan and I was so excited many years ago when I went to a camp and had the opportunity to meet Coach Joe B. Hall.”

a-062603cohen1.jpg“I’m a member of a group called the American Baseball Coaches Association, a group that has over 5000 members and the president of that organization was Keith Madison. That should tell you the influence he had and still has and the admiration we have for him in this profession. I’m honored to be standing here and following in his footsteps. I’m very excited about this opportunity and I do feel that there is an advantage to being in the northern part of the Southeastern Conference. At the same time, it’s the most challenging conference. With that said, I’m very excited about what we can do here at Kentucky.”

On being the northern-most school in the SEC…

“From my experiences coaching at the University of Missouri, I can tell you that northern players tend to be overlooked, though their athletic abilities are just the same as everyone else. Even though a baseball player in the south at age 16 or 17 may be more advanced, that equals out in college, across the board. I feel that the northern and midwestern baseball athlete can reach that level. When you look at professional baseball, you see how many of those guys are from the upper midwest and the north, and there’s no question they can really compete.”

“When I was at Mississippi State, I know Coach (Ron) Polk wanted at least the first month of preparation inside because that allowed the players to focus. Things like offensive skills, defensive skills and pitching could be isolated inside and there are more distractions outside. When you’re inside, you’re hitting balls into a net and you’re focusing on areas of your swing and you’re not worried so much about hitting the ball so far. Players can become more easily distracted when concentrating on how they’re hitting the ball. So you’ve got to have a period when you can focus more on hitting.”

On the timetable for hiring his staff…

“We’re in the process of putting together a staff. I’ve spoken with Jan (Weisberg), and Jan has done a very good job here. We’re going to have a great, great staff here, and I’m not ready to announce anything yet, but we’re going to have something together soon. I’m very excited about assembling one of the best young and energetic staffs in the Southeastern Conference.”

On Kentucky’s hiring process…

“This administration has done its homework. They took their time in deciding what they wanted here and researched this process in a first-class way. John Cropp was first-class and very upfront with me, and Mitch Barnhart has been first-class. The entire administration has been excellent. I was contacted and was asked if I was interested, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ This is one of the greatest opportunities in the entire country. The word I keep hearing the most about the Kentucky administration is the word commitment and that’s what I’ve seen. It has been tremendous. I think our players are going to be excited about what we do here.”

“Financially, a commitment has been made to the program. When you look in someone’s eyes, and you see and get an idea of what Mitch and his staff want, they say, ‘We want you to do your job, but we want to work with you. We want your input; what is it going to take to get this program where we want it to be?’ We’re going to work on this thing together.”

On getting UK baseball to national prominence…

“We have to change the mindset of people in our program, and we have to bring in the right types of young men. I’m about effort, and I’m about overachievement, and that’s the way I’ve approached things as a player and as a coach. I’ve talked about one big ‘C’ word, commitment, and my other big ‘C’ word is confidence. Hitters have to believe that they can get the job done. They have to have a swagger and they have to believe in the system in which they’re placed. They have to have a network of confidence-building coaches around them and they have to have confidence-building drills. It’s all about having the support and having the swagger, and I feel that’s something we established at Florida. You need confidence in order to be successful offensively in this league. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at Florida or at the University of Kentucky. You have to believe in yourself to win in this conference.”

Related Stories

View all