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‘This Is A Build, & That’s The Fun Part’: Mike Gambino Embracing Transformation Of Penn State Baseball

When Mike Gambino made the move from coaching his alma mater at Boston College to Penn State last spring, it was viewed as an impressive hire by Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft. Although he’s only about to coach his first game Friday against Monmouth, the foundation for a successful baseball program is being laid.

Gambino replaces Rob Cooper, who led the program from 2014 until the end of the 2023 season. It struggled under him, registering a losing record and just one Big Ten Tournament appearance during his tenure.

Gambino took over with aspirations of transforming Penn State baseball into a winning program that consistently made postseason appearances, retained Pennsylvania’s top talent, and maintained a good culture.

Although by his admission he isn’t patient, he’s excited about the task at hand even if it takes time.

“We know and understand this is a build, and that’s the fun part. For some reason about my personality, I love the build,” Gambino said. “I want personal development, player development, business development, organization development. They’re very rarely linear, right? I’ve talked to guys about this. When you zoom out, we believe the program will do this. But as you zoom in along the way, there’s going to be ups and downs.”

Although Gambino went 291-366 in 13 seasons at Boston College, he has a solid resume. He’s experienced in rebuilds, having guided the Eagles to their first NCAA Tournament in seven years in 2016 in addition to two other appearances.

Additionally, his player development skills are impressive, as the former Detroit Tigers scout had 33 MLB Draft picks in Boston. That’s an invaluable asset to any program, especially as some of his picks include Sal Frelick, Emmet Sheehan, and Michael King, each of whom are exciting young players either in MLB or headed there this season.

Gambino stressed that having players who are striving to make it to that level is a massive part of his approach.

“If a kid does not want to get to the big leagues, this is not the right place for him,” he said.

Gambino not only emphasized the importance of MLB ambitions, though. He wants certain types of players in Happy Valley — specifically competitive and selfless ones.

“I want tough, competitive kids. I want kids that come here because they want to win. I want kids that want to come here because they want to get to the big leagues,” Gambino said. “It’s important to me that we recruit and attract kids who are attracted to being part of something bigger than themselves. I want kids that want to come here to be part of Penn State baseball and care about their teammates and care about winning and represent the program well.”

Serious change is underway in Happy Valley. Gambino brings much-needed energy to the program, and he’s intent on what initiatives he wants to complete. His past experiences with rebuilds should help him get the job done, even if it isn’t linear.

Nonetheless, the drive within the program has changed for the better, and an interesting season is about to be underway.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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