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Nick Mingione reflects on "pushing the wall down" with Kentucky's first CWS appearance

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson06/19/24


Kentucky Baseball will not win the 2024 College World Series; however, simply making it to Omaha is a goal Nick Mingione has been working towards since he took the job at Kentucky in 2017. For the past two years, it’s one he’s manifested every day going in and out of Kentucky Proud Park.

“Our facility, it’s unbelievable,” Mingione told reporters following Kentucky’s 15-4 loss to Florida on Wednesday. “All the graphics in every single spot in our facility have a story, and they’re in the exact intentional place for a reason.

“And on the way to the field, the last hallway, there’s a sign that says ‘The Road to Omaha.’ It was there intentionally because I wanted the players to understand that every day they walked through that wall that’s where it was going to start.”

Mingione turned to his young son Reeves, who has been by his side throughout Kentucky’s dream run.

“What did your dad do every time for the last two years, every time he’s walked by that wall?”

“It’s almost like he punches it, like he wanted to knock it down,” Reeves said.

“I kept pushing on the wall for two years,” Mingione said. “Every time. I’ve never missed. Never missed. Just (punching) all the way down the hallway because I knew it was going to take a special group of men. For two years I’ve never walked down that hallway without pushing the wall down.

“And it was a reminder to myself, every time I walk out there, these guys deserve my best. Every time.”

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Mingione did that and more this season, leading Kentucky to a school record 46 wins and first College World Series appearance, winning SEC and National Coach of the Year honors along the way. The Cats hosted a regional for just the fourth time in school history and a Super Regional for the first time, sweeping the competition. The dream just got better in Omaha, where they beat NC State in the first game with a walk-off home run by Mitchell Daly in the bottom of the 10th inning. What happened in the last two games shouldn’t take away from that.

“I’ve done an amazing job this year of taking all this in,” Mingione said. “I could just sense — I knew how special they were. Their uncommon focus every single day, their unselfishness. I really dreaded this day because I just want to keep being around these guys. They are truly an amazing group of men.”

We’ll have to wait at least one more year to see if Kentucky can knock down the next hurdle of a national championship. For now, Mingione is proud of his squad for building the foundation.

“I just had one of our seniors tell me, Coach, the way you’ve loved us and the way you’ve literally poured your heart and soul into this, this is one of the reasons why we’re here,” he said.

“And I’m, like, no, it had nothing to do with me; it had to do with you because of the way you guys just represented this program, and man — but I believed in this team. And I knew we could do it. I knew we could do it. And I’m thankful we got here. And I wish we would have accomplished the ultimate goal of national champions, but they made history forever.”

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