Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Interview with Tri-City OF Ronnie Mitchell

One of the players in the 2013 draft class that piqued my interest early on was 38th rounder Ronnie Mitchell, a lefty-hitting outfielder out of Dallas Baptist. His good start, displaying power, speed and range, had me thinking that the Astros might have gotten a steal in the 38th round, sentiments that are echoed by Tri-City Manager Ed Romero, "You see it the same way I see it. I love him. He's very athletic. He's got a lot of tools. He can play all three outfields. He has a plus arm. He's a good defender, runs well. He's got power. Right now, there's a couple things he needs to work on with his swing. He tends to get a little too long at times, but that's very correctable. He's a great kid. Works hard and plays hard. I really like Mitchell."

Ronnie Mitchell - July 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I talked to Mitchell earlier this month and this is what he had to say (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

On his draft experience: "Obviously, it was a long one for me, being the 38th round pick, had to wait until the last day. Waiting around all day with my family was pretty emotional, but once I got picked, I was just very relieved and happy to get a chance to play professional baseball. [Did he know that the Astros were interested?] I talked to the scout that had interest in me, Jim Stevenson, probably a few weeks before the draft, and there were some other teams I was talking to a couple days before the draft. Jim just asked me if I wanted to play professional baseball and I told him 'yes,' and they drafted me late and I was grateful.

On his college experience: "It was a long journey for me. I went to three different colleges. It's a long story. My freshman year, I went to the University of Nevada-Reno, and ended up transferring. In between those schools, I had foot surgery and transferred to a junior college in Oklahoma, battled through some more injuries and ended up back at Dallas Baptist [where I] continued to battle injuries and tried to stay on the field. In my senior year I was just so grateful that I was able to stay on the field the entire season. I didn't miss a game and eventually got drafted by the Astros.

Any dirt on his former college teammate and fellow Astro Austin "Catfish" Elkins?: "He's a pretty up front guy. I'm sure you know everything about him. [Remembering] He cannot run sprints. That's something I remember even at DBU, we'd try to do conditioning and after 2 or 3 sprints, he's crying to the coach that he can't go anymore. [Laughs] You could say he's a great athlete, very explosive and powerful, but that guy cannot run sprints to save his life."

What has been the biggest surprise for him about playing pro ball so far?: "Obviously just the mental and physical grind every day. Showing up early six or seven hours before the game, working on fundamentals, getting early work in. You have to really focus in and take care of your body to be able to keep up that level of play, so many great guys playing professional baseball at this level."

What has he accomplished so far?: "There's no real sense of accomplishment yet. Like you said, it's early. I'm just showing up every day, trying to be as consistent as I can, level-headed. I just approach every day just giving it my all, playing with energy. Just whatever happens, happens."

What will he need to do to get to the next level as a player?: "Just overall consistency in every aspect - fielding, working on the fundamentals of throwing, catching. Obviously just getting a consistent approach, especially two-strike approach is a big thing at this level, transitioning from aluminum to wood bats, you really have to focus in. I would think that would be the biggest thing, just two-strike approach and fighting off pitches and that kind of thing."

What does he bring to the game?: "Honestly, I don't think about it that much. I just show up and try to play as hard as I can. I guess a consistent energy on a daily basis. I do my best to bring confidence and swagger to encourage my teammates. I just try to have as much fun as I can on the field, hopefully just try to uplift people through my play and off the field."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I'd probably be a clothing designer, whether it be sports apparel or formal wear. I like drawing and sketches and that kind of stuff. Even throughout my baseball career, however long I play, I'll do that on the side. That's something that most people don't know about me. I've been blessed with artistic ability and I like to draw and sketch free-hand. Whatever I visualize in my mind, I do a pretty decent job of being able to transfer it to paper."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "Zach Morton. He's a clown. He just doesn't stop either. A couple of games I got mad at him because I was trying to visualize and focus on my at bat and he's cracking jokes [in the dugout] and I ended up losing focus for a second. I've got to tell him to ease up during the game, but he is hilarious."

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The last question I asked Ed Romero was if there was anyone on the team who had surprised him. Mitchell's name came up again, "Mitchell has been a big surprise for me. I think he's much better than a 38th rounder. We did a very good job scouting him. I want to congratulate our scout in that area. He did an outstanding job with Mitchell."

On a personal level, I really enjoyed talking to Ronnie. He's soft-spoken and thoughtful with a sly sense of humor. But one last question cemented him as one of my new favorites to watch. I did not realize that he spent much of his childhood in Port Arthur and has a special fondness for the Astros, "I remember going to Astros games as a kid, and I was just enamored with the [idea that I would] be able to hopefully one day get a chance to play professional baseball. It's great that I was able to get picked up by a team that I was so familiar with, growing up 70 or 80 miles from the ballpark. It's just a great opportunity for me. I'm just enjoying every minute of it."

Thanks for your time, Ronnie, and the best of luck as the season continues.

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