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Texas A&M Baseball

5 Days 'til Aggie Baseball: Cain's career continues on upward trajectory

February 11, 2024

It’s that time of year! The Texas Aggie baseball team is set to open up the 2024 season on Friday against McNeese State at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. We’re counting down the days with our 2024 Aggie Baseball Preview Series.

Things happen for a reason.

Sure, it’s cliche, but don’t tell that to Nolan Cain.

“Things have always happened for a reason,” he said. “I really, truly believe in that. It’s just happened too many times for me in my life.”

After coming to Aggieland in June of 2021 as part of Jim Schlossnagle’s initial coaching staff, Cain was elevated to associate head coach last summer.

That promotion happened for a reason, too.

Cain assumes a title that was previously held by Nate Yeskie, who iconically left Texas A&M for Cain’s alma mater.

“LSU is a big part of my story, obviously, but I don’t want this to be based around that,” Cain said.

While reluctant for any Purple & Gold love letters to be penned, the 38-year-old rising star undoubtedly gained crucial knowledge and experience in Baton Rouge that’s equipped him to assist Schlossnagle in returning A&M to prominence.

A pitcher on Paul Mainieri’s 2009 national championship team, Cain spent over 13 years around LSU baseball.

“I had a nice career — I got a chance to play professional baseball — but I was never our Friday night guy or one of our top four or five pitchers,” Cain explained. “I was always in that 7-8-9 range as far as best pitchers on the team. I had a nice role. I got to pitch in the College World Series and that kind of stuff.

“I wasn’t your typical player where it was just play, just workout, go to class. I was around, asking questions, wanting to be a part of it. I was getting my masters in college baseball when I was 20 years old.”
- A&M assistant coach Nolan Cain

“Probably about my sophomore year, I realized that I really wanted to coach. There had just been a coaching change.”

When LSU failed to reach the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Mainieri was hired that June.

The hall-of-fame skipper brought assistants Terry Rooney and Cliff Godwin with him from Notre Dame.

Recognizing his drive and potential, Mainieri’s coaching staff also invested in Cain.

“I really knew that I wanted to coach, and they started utilizing me a lot in the recruiting process,” Cain recalled. “When we would have on-campus visits, I would usually be the host. There was a point where I went 11-for-11, so they kept on using me. We always joke about that, still to this day, whenever I see those guys.

“I wasn’t your typical player where it was just play, just workout, go to class. I was around, asking questions, wanting to be a part of it. I was getting my masters in college baseball when I was 20 years old.”

The return on investment was clearly beneficial for all parties.

Cain has since applied and perfected their curriculum.

As A&M’s recruiting coordinator, he played an influential role in piecing together one of the most talented rosters in program history.

“If you want to coach, you know the recruiting aspect is going to be a big part of it, and that’s kind of how I’ve made my name in college baseball,” Cain said.

Jace LaViolette was a massive recruiting win.

Newcomers — Gavin Grahovac, Caden Sorrell, Jack Bell, Isaac Morton and Kaiden Wilson, among others — comprise the No. 4 recruiting class by D1Baseball.

Headlined by Stanford standout Braden Montgomery, A&M’s transfer haul was also ranked No. 4 nationally. 

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Jace LaViolette had originally committed to Cain & LSU. However, the duo ultimately arrived at A&M and combined for 21 handshakes around third base in 2023.

A&M’s 2024 high school haul is also a top-10 class nationally.

“Those things don’t just happen,” Cain said. “It takes a lot of energy and time and hard work. Stacking good days on top of good days in everything that we’re doing around here just to get to this point where we’re in the conversation as one of the top baseball programs in the country.”

It’s no surprise the Aggies are ranked No. 8 nationally by

And for as much credit as Cain gets for his recruiting abilities, his on-field capabilities are just as elite.

“He’s our recruiting coordinator, but he has great feel for the game. He’s a drastically underrated coach,” Schlossnagle said. “He gets all this credit for recruiting, which he’s good at, but he really knows baseball.

“He’s a superstar.”

His rise to achieving superstardom now points toward Cain eventually becoming a head coach, and likely sooner rather than later.

“He’s ready to be a head coach. More than ready to be a head coach. He understands every facet of a college baseball program,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re going to make it hard for him to ever leave, but if he found the right head coaching job, we’re going to celebrate that.”

Still, Cain’s journey has taken more turns than it takes to get around the base paths.

Surprisingly, he wasn’t even the first in his marriage to coach at the collegiate level.

“I was always the one that always wanted to coach,” Cain said. “My wife, Kristen, played softball at LSU, and that’s how we met. When she had completed her career, we were actually in Omaha in 2009, and neither one of us knew what we were going to do after the College World Series was over.

“Two days before the national championship game, Yvette Girouard called Kristen and made her a full-time assistant coach on the softball staff.”

Remember, things happen for a reason.

In his final collegiate appearance, Cain (39) tossed 3.1 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the 2009 College World Series championship vs. Texas.

After a brief stint as a farmhand with the Detroit Tigers, Nolan turned down the chance to reunite with Rooney at UCF.

“I was like, ‘How the hell am I going to be living in Orlando, Florida, and her be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?’” he recalled. “It just wasn’t in the cards for me at the time, so Kurt Ainsworth, who was a pitcher at LSU who I had known really, really well, had started this company probably five years earlier called Marucci Bat Company.”

Working with Marucci allowed him to stay in Baton Rouge and around baseball.

And sticking around Red Stick certainly paid off when Mainieri called while en route to Omaha in 2013.

“Coach Mainieri called me literally right before they were taking off and said, ‘Hey, I know you’ve always wanted to coach. I love you. I’ve got this opportunity that will help you get into the coaching world. Is this something you’re interested in?’” Cain recalled. “I was like, ‘100 percent. Just let me know when.’”

Initially LSU’s director of baseball operations and eventually the Tigers’ volunteer assistant, he caught another break when Andy Cannizaro left for Mississippi State in November 2016.

“I think coach Mainieri wanted to keep everything the same, so he didn’t do a national search,” Cain said. “He just moved me up to the recruiting coordinator, and I did a really good job that spring. He agreed with a lot of my evaluations on players.

“If Andy doesn’t take that job in November, say he takes it in June, I don’t think I become the recruiting coordinator at LSU. I don’t think I get that opportunity, but just because of the timing, I did, and that’s how I’ve made my way.”

Cain certainly capitalized on his big break.

He recruited the nation’s No. 1 class in 2017 and the No. 2 class in 2020.

“I always joke with people that you’re not going to find players in your office,” Cain said. “Some of the best players that I’ve stumbled across were guys that nobody else knew about just because I was out at a field in the middle of June when nobody else was there. That work ethic, that desire, and I just love players.

“A lot of it comes down to work ethic. If you’re not single, you have to have the right wife, and mine is awesome. She knows when I have to walk away from the dinner table to take a phone call. She has done the job. She has a really good understanding of what it takes to be in this job.”

Similar success has followed Cain from Tigerland to Aggieland.

Now, the fruits of nearly three years of labor are beginning to show in the talent-rich A&M clubhouse as a second trip to Omaha in three years appears more than doable.

But the job isn’t done. Really, it’s only just begun.

“We’re right on the cusp. As close as we are, you’re still always that far away,” Cain said. “That’s how I think about it. Just because we worked hard to get to this point, we’ve got to keep working hard every single day.”

Should A&M happen to reach the pinnacle, Cain will have been a huge reason why.

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5 Days 'til Aggie Baseball: Cain's career continues on upward trajectory

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