Since Mississippi State began it’s postseason run last year, now-junior Trevor Fitts has been one of the best and most reliable pitchers on the team.
But his impact on the team, in all facets, can’t be relegated to just work on the mound. He’s important there, too, without question. But he means much more to MSU than just being a pitcher.
“Trevor Fitts,” pitching coach Butch Thompson began, “he’s just who we are, in every sense. He doesn’t give a pitch away. He battles. He’s an extraordinary teammate. He’s everything that I think Mississippi State baseball represents, with a special group. As a coach you try not to play favorites, but boy, he got my heart and a lot of his teammates’ hearts and his coaches’ hearts. Everybody roots for him.”
Why do they root for him? Certainly he earned some good will (and national attention) last fall when he created a PowerPoint presentation that convinced John Cohen to let his team grow beards. When the Bulldogs ran through Omaha, they were as famous for their facial [and chest] hair as they were for their actual play.
His teammates also say there are few more encouraging than Fitts in the locker room. As fellow pitcher Jonathan Holder said, it doesn’t even matter what the situation is, baseball or not.
“If you’ve had a long day at school or something, you drag around a little bit in the locker room, Fitts likes to pick you up and get you going,” the All-American closer said. “He’s the hype guy, for sure. He likes to get everybody going.”
Brandon Woodruff, another junior on the pitching staff, referred to Fitts as “an energy bunny,” saying the guy is always jumping around, talking to teammates, smiling, laughing and having fun.
That energy is contagious, particularly when Fitts gets the ball.
“When he’s on the mound, guys know Trevor Fitts is pitching that day,” first baseman Wes Rea said. “It’s just like a light switch turns on for that guy when he’s pitching that day. He gets the guys wanting to be around him. He’s energetic and ready to go. It’s a really electric atmosphere when Trevor Fitts is pitching that day.”
Much of what makes him so likeable, so loved by his teammates and coaches, is that whatever Fitts does, it’s not about him. Sure, he has his own desires and dreams like anyone. It’s no coincidence his beard is one of the finest on the team after he petitioned for their clubhouse legality. And he wants to be a good pitcher more than nearly anything.
But his encouraging attitude remains constant. Team over self.
After every inning pitched, Fitts runs to the mouth of the dugout, before anyone else can get there, and waits for each member of his defense to arrive, giving individual glove-bumps and high-fives as they come off the field.
“I’ve never seen a player do that,” assistant coach Nick Mingione said. “He runs off the mound after recording a third out and he’ll go give his teammates and defenders a high five. I’ve never seen it. He’s just a totally selfless player and we’re so happy he’s here.”
In his most recent start, Fitts had, by most measures, an impressive outing. In 6.1 innings, he struck out six and only allowed one run. But after he came out, and as the game wore on, his Bulldogs went on to lose 5-1, though they did win the overall series against Vanderbilt.
In postgame interviews, Fitts deflected any praise for himself. Instead he talked about how his offensive teammates had quality at-bats throughout, even if the production never came. He lamented the loss, while praising those in the bullpen for their efforts.
It’s like that any time he’s interviewed, after win or loss. Fitts has one of the biggest personalities on the team, and the energy can be seen in his smiles and bounciness, but in those public settings, he doesn’t want it to be about him.
Which is why one has to talk to those around him to hear what Fitts means to the club.
“He’s a really good teammate,” second baseman Brett Pirtle said. “Even when it’s down for him, he’s always there for you. He’s really proud of us, to have us behind him playing defense. He shows how much he likes us by being at the end of the dugout high-fiving us.”
Said Woodruff, “He’s awesome. Every time he comes around, he’s such an energy bunny. He lights up the room. It’s always fun being around Trevor … Whenever he’s coming off the mound or going onto the field, he always jumps the line. When he does stuff like that, he kind of looks like a little rabbit when he hops the line. He really sets the tone with energy.”
All the while, Fitts has steadily improved himself as a pitcher. With each outing, Thompson agreed, Fitts seems to be better than the last. His progression over his time at MSU is exactly what a coach wants to see. Used sparingly to start the 2013 season, he ended up as a starter in the College World Series.
Initially limited in how long he stays on the mound, Thompson and the staff now depend on Fitts for weekend starts and SEC inning-eating.
“He’s always redefining himself,” Thompson said.
Mingione went on to say Fitts has “a teachable and coachable spirit,” as well as an infectious personality.
As the years have passed for Cohen in Starkville, Mingione sees a team full of young men who reflect the personality of their head coach, the style of the school they play for and the emblem on their jerseys.
This team, he said, is a perfect representation of the program. And the bearded energy bunny is just another great example.
“Trevor Fitts, he’s one of the guys we feel like is who we are. He just pretty much does embody what Mississippi State baseball is.”