When Auburn Head Coach Tom Slater lured Butch Thompson to his staff at Auburn in the summer of 2005 it was with the intention of bringing a top-notch pitching coach and an elite recruiter into the mix on the Plains. Entering his third season, it is evident that Slater got everything he wanted and more out of Thompson, who has been the master architect of three straight top-20 recruiting classes (10th in 2005, 18th in 2006 and fifth in 2007), helped turn three Tiger pitchers into MLB Draft picks for the first time in their careers and developing a staff that dropped the team ERA by over half a run in just one season under his guidance.
A quiet, unassuming individual on the field, Thompson can build a fire inside his players. After taking over the role of pitching coach full-time for the 2007 season, Auburn saw a drastic reduction in its team ERA from 2006, dropping from 5.15 to 4.59. Two of Auburn's four primary starters out-performed themselves as their ERAs dropped significantly under Thompson's tutelage, with sophomore Paul Burnside posting a 3.06 ERA in 2007 after a 4.91 in 2006 and Bryan Woodall going from a 5.44 to a 4.84. At the conclusion of the year, Brett Butts, who in one year dropped his ERA by over three-and-a-half runs and became Auburn's go-to-guy in the bullpen, earning six saves, became a 19th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves after never having been drafted before.
Since 2001, in his six years as a pitching coach, Thompson has had 15 pitchers taken in the Major League Baseball Draft, including five after the 2005 season. Four of the 15 were picked in the first five rounds while 14 were selected for the first time in their careers. He has also coached Clint Sammons and Connor Robertson, who both made their MLB debuts in 2007.
Thompson, a native of Amory, Miss, served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia from 2002-05 before coming to Auburn. During his time at Georgia, he signed the 10th-ranked recruiting class in 2003, guided a pitching staff that helped win the 2004 SEC Championship and a berth in the that same year's College World Series. The '04 pitching staff posted the third-lowest opponent batting average in school history while also collecting a school-record 17 saves.
Thompson, 37, joined the Bulldog staff in July of 2001 after seven years as an assistant on Brian Shoop's staff at Birmingham Southern, including the last four as the pitching coach. The Panthers captured the 2001 NAIA World Series and compiled a 55-11 record. During his tenure at BSC, the Panthers made four appearances in the NAIA World Series (1995, '99, '00 and '01) and massed a record of 331-107.
Thompson began his coaching career at Huntingdon College in 1993, serving as the Hawks' pitching coach and head assistant. He returned to his alma mater, BSC, in 1994 before serving as head coach at Jefferson State Community College in 1997, leading them to a 39-21 record and capturing the AJCAA Region 22 State Championship and a third-place finish in the NJCAA Division II World Series. It was the first World Series appearance in school history. For his accomplishments, Thompson was named Regional Tournament Coach of the Year, ABCA Alabama Junior College Coach of the Year and Southeast Region Coach of the Year.
A 1992 graduate of BSC, he earned a bachelor's degree in history and in 1996 completed a master's degree in sports administration from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Thompson pitched at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss., before playing his final two seasons at Birmingham Southern.
Thompson, who was named the 2006 Fellowship of Christian Athletes SEC Coach of the Year, is married to the former Robin Ashe of Birmingham, Ala. They have three daughters, Anna (9), Olivia (7) and Madelyn Gail (2).
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT
Will Startup, 2005 5th-Round Draft Pick of the Atlanta Braves out of the University of Georgia (now with San Diego Padres AAA affiliate).
"Coach Thompson is one of my best friends. I have come to Auburn the past couple of years to help out with the baseball camps. Wherever he goes, I want to follow him because he means so much to me. I am still learning from him about pitching as I progress in my career. He was able to clearly teach us how and why we should pitch. Coach Thompson really has a passion for building your guys into respectable men. It is more than just a surface level relationship, you can tell he wants to be with his players. When I have problems, questions, obstacles or challenges, he is one of the first guys that I call. He is never afraid to tell me, he does not know my answer, but he will try to find it out. That speaks well of him as a man of integrity and character. He will be a life-long friend of mine and I will always be going back to him for wisdom, for guidance, for everything."
Brian Shoop, Head Coach, UAB
"Butch Thompson is truly one of the great young coaches in our game. I had the joy of coaching alongside Butch at Birmingham-Southern and saw first hand the impact he has on a pitching staff and a total program. It was one of my favorite times in life - coaching side by side with Butch. You can rest assured the Auburn pitchers are receiving tremendous instruction. They are also being mentored by a special Christian man - something all parents want for their children. I am an Auburn fan because of Butch Thompson.
"As good a coach as he is, Butch is even a better man - a great husband and father to Robin and their three precious daughters."
Rick Eckstein, Hitting Coach, Columbus Clippers
(AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals)
"Butch Thompson is a man of integrity who exemplifies what it means to be a coach. He is extremely knowledgeable, conscientious and committed. On and off the field, he guides each of his student athletes with a vision and passion to reach their greatest potential. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Butch as a person and coach."