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Penn State Baseball Head Coach Mike Gambino Ready To Make Mark On Roster

Mike Gambino has some work to do before February.

As he enters his new job, the Penn State baseball head coach needs to make his mark on the program as soon as possible — and he knows it.

Gambino, who replaced Rob Cooper at the helm of the program in June, inherits a program that lost 10 of its final 11 games and gave the team a final record of 25-25 while they finished 7-16 in the Big Ten.

It’s easy to chalk up many of the Nittany Lions’ struggles to Cooper’s shortcomings as a coach: Cooper reached just one Big Ten Tournament in his 10 years at Penn State. But every new coach will want to roll over the roster, and Gambino will be no different. He’ll want to coach some of his own players, not just Cooper’s leftovers.

“There’s a good foundation,” Gambino said at his introductory press conference Tuesday. “And I think there are some needs that we’re going to address in the transfer portal, so No. 1 is continuing to round out this roster.”

Then comes recruiting. Gambino, upon arrival, pledged to make it difficult for any high schooler in the state of Pennsylvania to want to go play college baseball anywhere other than Penn State. It’s a similar pledge to Gambino’s colleague, James Franklin, who vowed to “dominate the state” in recruiting upon his arrival. Soon after, Franklin flipped a young running back by the name of Saquon Barkley from Rutgers.

Gambino, like Franklin, came to Penn State from a much smaller university. And like Franklin, Gambino said he is quickly realizing the reach that his new school has.

“It has to be the right kids,” Gambino said. “It has to be the kids that believe in what we’re doing here. Do they have to have grown up as Penn State fans? Well, I feel like everybody in the state already is a Penn State fan.”

Penn State football is “an international brand,” Gambino noted. Penn State’s volleyball, field hockey, and wrestling are established dynasties in collegiate athletics. Baseball, Gambino said, can be next up.

Alongside the power of Penn State comes the power of Pennsylvania baseball. When at Boston College, Gambino stuck to New England for his recruiting. Now, he’s excited to work within his state’s border to recruit.

“We want to recruit the state hard. We want to be everywhere in the state,” Gambino said. “We want to make it really hard for any kid in the state to leave.”

Part of that is Penn State’s efforts with Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). The university recently witnessed the merger of its two NIL collectives to Happy Valley United. As Gambino enters his new role, he’s getting accustomed to NIL in Happy Valley.

“What Penn State, the brand, the reach, the network can do, and I’m learning this quickly, is overwhelming,” Gambino said. “I’m excited that we’ve already started having these conversations. It’s going to be part of what we’re doing this summer. And it’s going to be a big part of the future.”

NIL and where he recruits are how Gambino snags prospects for his program. With the transfer portal already open, it will likely be the first thing that Penn State fans will see from their new head coach.

Equally as important to Gambino is who he brings into the program. For Gambino, he needs players who want to win and who want to win for Penn State.

“I want kids that want to win. I want kids that want to put the team first. I want you to want to play in the big leagues,” Gambino said. “But I also want kids that care about and value this degree and care about representing the alumni and the school logo.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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