Right now, while most college baseball coaches across the country are on the road, busy scouting and recruiting prospects, South Carolina’s Mark Kingston is half a world away — the Gamecocks’ head coach landed in Taiwan on Monday, then heads over to Japan next week.
It’s the farthest Kingston, a baseball veteran who’s played all over the U.S., has ever been from home, but it’s not for pleasure; he is an assistant coach on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, working alongside some of the best players and coaches from the amateur level.
In that role, Kingston will end up being away from South Carolina for a month. What he thinks he’ll get out of the experience will make up for that, he said.
“It’s been tremendous, both from an experience standpoint, in terms of representing South Carolina while representing the United States,” Kingston told The State before leaving for Taiwan. “It’s been a great experience in terms of exchanging and sharing ideas with other coaches from both the college and pro level, and it’s been a great experience in working and being with a lot of the best players in the country.”
Specifically, Kingston has been eager to learn from his fellow coaches — head coach Dan McDonnell (Louisville), assistant coach Tony Skole (The Citadel), pitching coach Greg Moore (St. Mary’s) and bench coach Dave Turgeon (Pittsburgh Pirates). After a difficult 2019 season that saw the Gamecocks tie the program record for losses in a season and miss the NCAA tournament, Kingston has indicated he wants to reevaluate the entirety of the program.
“Our staff on USA is constantly sharing ideas and experiences just to kind of see if we can learn anything from each other. Over the course of the summer I think we’ve all learned something from each other,” Kingston said.
Additionally, Kingston feels his USA Baseball experience will add some “prestige” to the coaching staff and program, a sentiment he said was shared by athletics director Ray Tanner, who helped coach the national team on five occasions.
As for his absence on the recruiting trail, Kingston said that won’t be an issue — the NCAA grants waivers to programs with coaches on national team staffs, allowing a third assistant to go on the road in his place. And it’s not as though he’s unreachable, he said.
“I’m still able to have recruits call me, I’m still able to have recruits reach out to me, so I can talk to them and share USA experiences while we’re also talking about their recruiting,” Kingston said. “So I think combining those two, it definitely, it sheds a really nice light on our program and them wanting to join a program whose coach is able to represent and has been chosen for USA Baseball.”
And for Kingston personally, the experience has been a rewarding one — he saw his family, several South Carolina fans and assistant coach Stuart Lake in Charlotte when the U.S. played Cuba as part of a rivalry series, then had the chance to represent his country in a game on Independence Day.
“Playing in Durham on the Fourth of July representing America, winning, seeing the fireworks show afterwards in a packed stadium, that’s hard to beat as well,” Kingston said. “Playing baseball for USA on the Fourth of July against Cuba is about as good as it gets.”