The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Kentucky's Nick Mingione shows us what 'more' means

28 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: Michael Wade

Welcome to the 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event at the Hoover (Ala.) Met the best college baseball tournament in the nation. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.

He beamed, then struggled to choke back other emotions. He raved about his team, then expressed deep gratitude for the opposing coach. Nick Mingione went raw and real in a different way Friday after Kentucky 10, Vanderbilt 2. It won't put him and Tim Corbin in the national spotlight, but probably should.

Mingione had no shortage of praise for his veteran crew, now the first team to win not just one but two SEC Tournament games as the No. 12 seed after slashing 16 hits all over the Hoover Met. Corbin, Vanderbilt's elder statesman, complimented the Wildcats as well. Someone shared that nugget with Mingione and asked about the relationships between the conference's baseball coaches.

That sent Mingione down a different path. He recalled how Corbin had remembered his name and "treated me like a head coach" even when he was a volunteer coach. But it was more than Corbin's personal and professional courtesy that moved Mingione almost to tears.

It was the unwanted bond they share as head coaches who've had players pass away far too young. In January of 2021, after 22-year-old UK pitcher Ben Jordan died, Mingione, in search of guidance and understanding, called Corbin. Five years earlier, the Vandy coach had to cope with the drowning death of 19-year-old pitcher Donny Everett

"I called him, and he helped me get through that," Mingione said. "That was really hard. It was the hardest thing I've been through as a coach, to lose a player, and I called on him because he did that. I get emotional from that standpoint because this league is hard, but he and I have been through something that not a lot of people have. I'll just tell you this, he was there for me, and that meant a lot."

Vanderbilt will go home and prepare for the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky will get some rest and get ready to play Saturday to try to keep this improbable run going. The show must go on. As Mingione said, "What we do for a living is really hard. This is the greatest league in America, and it's not forgiving."

There's been a lot of buzz lately about relationships between SEC coaches. Well, one relationship in particular in a different sport. In the midst of all the national noise, we got a moving glimpse of another relationship that goes beyond the scoreboard, but in a way that elevates both men and the sport they teach so well.