The 33-year-old played youth league and travel baseball in Cleveland and high school baseball at Bayou Academy. He ended up playing college baseball at Delta State University from 2000-04, where he helped lead the Statesmen to a national championship in 2004 and earned the NCAA Rawlings/ABCA National Division II Player of the Year.
After DSU, he played professional baseball for six years, spent two years as manager of the Brockton Rox in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and was recently hired as a scout for the Colorado Rockies.
Now, Thigpen will go down a different road on his baseball journey as he was named head coach of the Pillow Academy baseball team last week.
Thigpen’s life the past few weeks has been a whirlwind. Thigpen got the scouting job at Colorado in February and hit the ground running.
“Everything happened so quick,” Thigpen said. “When Pillow called, I went there. I just remembered being at Bayou playing Pillow and what kind of program they had. When I went for the interview, I was kind of curious because I always wanted to coach.”
Thigpen said his path to becoming a coach enabled him to become a scout before accepting the Pillow Academy job.
“I actually applied for a coaching job with the Rockies,” Thigpen said. “The Rockies called and wanted me to put in an application. In the interview process, it came down to three people and it went to a guy that has been in the big leagues for six years, so I kind of got trumped out of the coaching job.
“A few weeks later, the same guy who signed me in 2004 asked me what I thought about scouting. I said I would love to scout. I just wanted to stay in baseball. It was kind of my last way to stay other than lessons and instructions. I just jumped into it head first. I had a blast doing it.
“When Pillow called and I was speaking with the headmaster Jay Watts, Tripp McCarty and the staff, something in my gut said this is what you’ve been waiting for to get into coaching.”
Thigpen had success as the manager of the Rox as the team went to the playoffs in both seasons. In two seasons at Brockton, the Rox went 54-49.
Thigpen has a great love for the Delta area and has a lot of respect for Pillow Academy. The Mustangs have started playing scrimmage games under Thigpen.
The Cleveland native is excited about what the future holds at Pillow Academy as the team’s skipper.
“I’m pumped,” Thigpen said. “I know the first thing people are going to say is ‘This guy is a scout. Why is he going back to coaching?’ I don’t think people realize what scouting really is. You can be gone two or three weeks at a time without being at home. Getting back to the Delta, being in Greenwood, being around familiar faces with a school I’m familiar with, being a head coach, it’s a big deal to me and I don’t take it lightly. I feel like this is what I’ve been led to do, and I’m very blessed to say the least.”
Playing five years at Delta State, Thigpen learned a lot about the game from current Statesmen head coach Mike Kinnison.
Thigpen said he wants everyone at Pillow Academy to strive for victory.
“I want to go there to build a program,” Thigpen said. “If you don’t go into something expecting to win, you shouldn’t go there. My goal is to get Pillow Academy excited about baseball, the kids there excited about baseball and the kids that might not have gone out for baseball to go out for baseball and want to go.
“What they’re trying to do is they’re working hard to make all of their athletic programs successful. I’m going to support the school at every football game, every basketball game, every track meet when possible.”’
Pillow Academy headmaster Jay Watts said Thigpen fits right at the school.
“I just wanted to say we’re very excited to hire someone with the knowledge and experience that Jud has,” Watts said. “He’s got a great work ethic and a passion for baseball. We think he’ll do a great job and be a member of the Pillow Academy family.”
Thigpen added he still plans to be an associate scout for the Rockies.