Four years after graduating from Rancho Bernardo High, Cal Mitchell still loves his job.
When that job was taken away in 2020 due to the pandemic, Mitchell, 21, didn’t know what to do. It was the first time he had been without baseball since he was six.
Mitchell, a 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates second-round selection, was sent home during the pandemic during spring training to await their return to play for the minor leagues.
(Rob Lynn / Altoona curve)
That call came just before spring training for the 2021 season.
“The whole summer has been feeling weird,” said Mitchell, a starting right fielder for the Altoona turn in double A-ball. “I was at home a lot at RB and Florida.
“I played a lot of video games between workouts,” said Mitchell. “I would exercise, eat, hit, or do defense work. I’ve done my best to stay busy. “
But it wasn’t as productive as playing games would have been for its development. After all, the goal of every minor league is to reach the major league.
“Every player in the minors wants to make the majors this season or that,” said Mitchell. “I missed a season to get bigger, stronger and faster.
“They shortened the draft and reduced the number of minor league teams,” he said. “The closure of minors is not good for anyone.”
One of the things Mitchell said he wanted to work on was his strikeout rate.
After the 6-foot, 205-pounder hit 109 times at 495 record appearances in 2018, it sniffed 142 times at 493 record appearances the year before the virus broke out.
So far, Mitchell has cut just 37 times out of 207 record appearances in 2021.
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That helped increase his batting average from 0.251 in 2019 to 0.294 right now with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 55 games.
“I was a little rusty this year,” admitted Mitchell. “It has really been four years since I was at Rancho Bernardo.
“I was excited to see what would happen this year after everything was taken away so quickly in 2020,” he said. “In the locker room there is no talk about (the) 2020 season. The only thing everyone is worried about right now is how well they are doing that day. “
Mitchell also credits this process after seeing his lifelong passion taken from his hands.
The Pirates Minor League number 17 is still targeting Pittsburgh, although the schedule needs to be adjusted to the virus.
Mitchell began his professional career in the Gulf Coast League for rookie ball before moving to the South Atlantic League in West Virginia, where he was an All-Star.
The 2019 season was spent in Bradenton, Florida for another year of single-A play. Then came the coronavirus.
“Things got so mundane last summer,” said Mitchell. “Playing baseball is so difficult at any level. The best I ever heard from a coach was, “You are not as good as you think and you are not as bad as you think.”
“Ultimately, this is an expectation sport and everyone has to hit it to move forward,” he said.
Mitchell, a senior All-CIF first team player at Rancho Bernardo High, is back on his personal journey to one day be a Pittsburgh pirate.
His strikeouts are way down, he has better contact on the plate and he feels like his defense has improved on the outfield, Mitchell said.
So are his prospects, now that he’s back on the pitch and doing his job.