Among the most highly respected coaches and recruiters in college baseball, Mitch Thompson is beginning his sixth year as head coach at McLennan Community College. His coaching career spans three decades and includes 23 years coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level, including 22 years in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences.
Thompson was named McLennan head coach before the 2014 season and immediately began rebuilding the program to prominence. In five seasons under Thompson’s leadership, the Highlanders have amassed a 214-88 (.711) record, including an 112-48 (.700) conference mark, and have made five consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since the 1990s.
The Highlanders finished 32-27 in Thompson’s initial season and earned a Region V bid for the first time in four years. McLennan finished the season as the Region V Tournament runner-up after posting a 17-15 mark in the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC).
In 2015, Thompson guided McLennan to its first Region V championship and JUCO World Series appearance in 32 years with a 41-20 overall record. The Highlanders were 19-11 in conference play. Thompson was rewarded for his efforts by being named Region V Coach of the Year as well as Waco Tribune-Herald Sportsman of the Year.
Thompson’s 2015 squad posted a .327 team batting average and averaged more than seven runs per game. The season included a pair of six-game winning streaks and a stretch in which McLennan won 24 of 31 games. At the JUCO World Series, the Highlanders won three straight elimination games before falling to Northwest Florida State College in the national championship game. McLennan showed great toughness down the stretch going 9-3 in the postseason and winning six elimination games on their way to the national runner-up finish.
The Highlanders’ success continued in 2016, going 45-12 overall and 25-7 in conference play to claim the NTJCAC title and earn Thompson the Coach of the Year honor. McLennan won 13 of its final 14 regular-season games, including a nine-game winning streak. The Highlanders finished the season ranked #11 in the nation and again were potent at the plate notching a .342 team batting average with 80 home runs, averaging 8.9 runs per game. Thompson’s squad was nearly unbeatable at home, going 24-3 at Bosque River Ballpark.
2017 was an incredible season for the Highlanders. The team was ranked 16th in the NJCAA Division I Preseason Poll and climbed the poll throughout the season, spending a week at No. 1. The Highlanders recorded a 26-6 conference mark, including going undefeated in April, to claim a second consecutive conference championship – McLennan’s first back-to-back conference titles in over 20 years. Thompson was once again named Coach of the Year. Success continued in the postseason as well. The squad went 6-1 in the Region V Tournament to claim another regional title and secure a return trip to the JUCO World Series. The Highlanders went 1-2 in Grand Junction, finishing in fifth place and ending the season with an overall record of 52-13. The team’s 52 wins was the second most of any Division 1 team in the country.
The Highlanders’ winning tradition continued in 2018. McLennan began the year ranked sixth in the NJCAA Preseason Poll and remained in the top 20 throughout the season. With Perfect Game’s Top JUCO Prospect and NJCAA All-American Josh Breaux leading the way at the play and NJCAA All-American Grant Miller leading the pitching staff, the Highlanders notched a 25-7 record for a second-place finish in conference play. McLennan ended the season with an overall record of 44-15 after the disappointing ruling by the NJCAA that eliminated the Highlanders and Cisco from the championship game.
Through Thompson’s five seasons at McLennan, 25 players have earned all-conference honors, and 67 student-athletes have advanced to play with four-year programs, including 54 with Division I programs and 20 with Power Five conference schools. A dozen of Thompson’s players have been drafted in the Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft including Breaux, the program’s highest-ever draft selection. Breaux was selected by the New York Yankees with the 61st overall pick in the second round of the 2018 draft. One additional Highlander was signed as a free agent with an MLB organizations.
Thompson’s squads also have excelled in the classroom as the program has posted a cumulative team GPA of at least 3.0 in 10 consecutive semesters. His teams earned NJCAA All-Academic Team Honorable Mention honors in 2015 (3.13 GPA), 2016 (3.19 GPA), 2017 (3.42 GPA) and 2018 (3.51). Sixty-one players have earned NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards. The 2017 and 2018 team GPAs were the third best in the nation.
Before being named McLennan head coach, Thompson spent one season as the South Texas area scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals organization. During that year, Thompson drafted the 1st-, 3rd-, 9th-, 13th- and 20th-round picks for Kansas City. The Royals spent nearly $3 million signing his players. Two of his 5 draft picks have advanced to play in the Big Leagues with the Royals.
Thompson is no stranger to baseball in Central Texas, having spent nearly two decades on staff at Baylor University (1995-2012) where he was the Bears’ hitting instructor and primary recruiter. He guided Baylor to the most prolific period of offensive production in program history as numerous program records were established during his tenure. Thompson was promoted to assistant head coach before the 2009 season.
In his 18 seasons at Baylor, Thompson helped lead the Bears to three Big 12 Conference titles, 12 NCAA Regional appearances, three Super Regional appearances and the 2005 College World Series. Those teams included four Big 12 Players of the Year as well as 1999 consensus National Player of the Year and Golden Spikes Award winner Jason Jennings.
Thompson recruited all but one player who signed with Baylor during his tenure on the Bears’ staff, 72 of which were drafted by or signed free-agent contracts with Major League organizations. This list includes several high-round draft picks, most notably first-round selections Kip Wells (Chicago White Sox, 1998), Jennings (Colorado Rockies, 1999), Chad Hawkins (Texas Rangers, 2000), David Murphy (Boston Red Sox, 2003), Mark McCormick (St. Louis Cardinals, 2005) and Aaron Miller (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2009), as well as 2001 Johnny Bench Award winner and Red Sox second-round pick Kelly Shoppach.
Thirteen players Thompson recruited who signed with Baylor eventually played in the Major Leagues. His recruiting classes were ranked among the nation’s 25 best six times, including a No. 1 ranking in 2005 that led to Thompson being named the 2006 Baseball America/American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Thompson began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for legendary coach Ron Polk at Mississippi State for the 1990 season. The 1990 Bulldogs were 50-21 and reached the College World Series after upsetting second-ranked Florida State in the NCAA South II Regional. Thompson spent the 1991 season at Radford (Virginia) University before returning to Mississippi State for the 1992 and 1993 seasons as assistant coach and director of baseball operations.
In 1994, Thompson was an assistant coach at Auburn University under legendary coach Hal Baird, helping the Tigers garner 44 wins and a College World Series appearance. He worked with catchers and outfielders and was the team’s defensive coordinator.
Thompson is a 1988 honors graduate of Fort Hays State in Kansas where he twice earned academic all-conference honors in baseball and served as team captain as a senior. He began his collegiate career at Cloud County Community College before spending a year at Bacone College before transferring to Fort Hays State. Thompson toured Europe in the summer of 1987 with Athletes in Action, the athletic ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He earned a master’s degree in physical education from Mississippi State in 1991.
In 1998, Thompson produced an instructional video titled “Contact Hitting and Plate Coverage” with Championship Books and Videos. The following year, he and Championship Books and Videos co-produced a six-video series designed to help youth-league baseball coaches.
Thompson and his wife, Amber, have two daughters, Mary Conley and Caroline.
2013-present: Head coach, McLennan Community College
2009-12: Assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator, Baylor University
1995-2009: Assistant coach/recruiting coordinator, Baylor University
1994-95: Assistant coach/defensive coordinator, Auburn University
1993-94: Volunteer assistant coach, Mississippi State University
1991-93: Assistant coach/director of baseball operations, Mississippi State University
1990-91: Assistant coach, Radford University
1989-90: Graduate assistant coach, Mississippi State University
MLB Scouting experience
2013: Kansas City Royals
1985-88: Fort Hays State University
1984-85: Bacone College
1983-84: Cloud County Community College
Summer 1987: Athletes in Action
1991: Master’s in physical education, Mississippi State University
1988: Bachelor’s in physical education, Fort Hays State University