Bears add fourth to 2015 class

Mike Neu added a speedy center fielder to the California baseball team's 2015 class last week, who's stolen more bases by himself over the past two seasons than the Bears did -- as a team -- in 2013.

Following the commitment of catcher Ty Greene on Sept. 22, the California baseball program got its fourth commit of the 2015 cycle last week, earning the pledge of speedy center fielder Jeffrey Mitchell of Pleasant Hill (Calif.) College Park.

"Definitely just the fit with how coach [David] Esquer runs it, the brotherhood that he preaches, how it's all about just grinding and playing, and it's not about the flashy what-not and the hype," Mitchell said after his Oct. 1 commitment. "It's just coming to play baseball and have a brother and have a family as a team. That was the main reason."

Mitchell is a two-sport star at College Park, as a run-scoring speedster on the diamond and a dime-dishing point guard on the hardwood. This past season, the Falcons went 27-6 with Mitchell at the helm, with the sophomore scoring 5.6 points per game, pulling down 1.6 boards and averaging 2.2 assists per game, along with 1.8 steals per contest.

College Park got all the way to the state title game, delaying Mitchell's baseball season debut by two months, just as a deep playoff run the year before had put off his first game by several weeks.

"They help each other in certain ways. I can see the benefits of playing basketball, how it helps on the baseball field. The hardest part about it is that it's hard to switch back," Mitchell says. "I'll go from starting basketball right now and playing baseball, and then play basketball all the way through until – last year we made it through March – and then the day after we lost the state championship game, I went right to baseball practice and had that every day. That's definitely the hardest part, and staying in condition is hard. We've got basketball every single day for two hours, and school, and trying to balance hitting time, building up arm strength and all that, that can be kind of hard, but I'm lucky that our coaches have provided us with all these facilities and let us come in on extra time. It's not too hard, but it just takes a little extra to get back into focus."

Mitchell's batting average has taken a hit from his exploits on the basketball court, and over his first two varsity seasons, Mitchell is hitting just .240, but with a .405 on-base percentage.

"I've had some struggles with some injuries and some setbacks – not huge injuries, but minor nagging things – and I want to have a full season where I can just focus on my hitting, and get that more consistent. I have spurts, but that's the biggest thing for me," Mitchell says. "Staying more consistent with that is my biggest goal this season."

Pitching coach Mike Neu offered Mitchell knowing that he has one weapon that just doesn't slump: speed.

"Coach Neu had been coaching at DVC (Diablo Valley College), and I'd go to his camps and I've played with him for a while, and then, my high school coach, [Andy] Tarpley, he played with him, so I've been out [to Cal] for the camps, and I've been on campus quite a bit," Mitchell says. "I know he's seen me play, and he's seen what I'm capable of doing. I don't think my high school stats really show what I can really do with the bat. He's seen me in the summer, playing with the wooden bat.

"He knows what I can do with the bat, once I get into the full swing of it, and I feel like I can do other things, too, defensively, and get on base. I'll help the team win, no matter what."

When Neu told Mitchell that he had an offer back in late September, Mitchell knew he would wind up a Bear.

"When he told me, I pretty much knew it was the spot, but I wanted to talk it over with my family and some coaches. Once I stepped foot on campus and saw the environment of the football game and met some of the players, I knew it was where I wanted to be," Mitchell says. "I've talked a little bit with Oregon State, a little bit with Washington. My goal has always been to play in the Pac, so anywhere else really wasn't even an option for me. The Pac has been where it's been."

The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has stolen 37 bases in 41 attempts over his first two seasons, and boasts a 60-yard dash of 6.7 seconds. In football parlance, that equates to a 4.47-second 40-yard dash. That's not his only impressive number. Last year, he posted a 4.0 GPA, after a 3.8 his freshman year.

"I take a lot of pride in my schoolwork. I want to try and get all A's at Cal. That's one of my goals, too, so we'll see how that works out," Mitchell laughs. "I don't know exactly how realistic that goal is, but I'm going to set it there, and see what happens."

Mitchell says he didn't grow up watching much of Cal athletics, but in recent years, with the resurgence of the baseball program, he's been out quit a bit, including his visit for the Ohio State game several weeks ago.

"I went to a few Cal football games, and some baseball games, but I was never a huge Cal fan. My parents went to Cal Poly, and it really wasn't until these past few years that I've been going out there more consistently, and seeing all of that, I just kind of fell in love with it," Mitchell says. "Even through I'm only 20-30 minutes away from Berkeley, I rarely go there, but these past few years, I fell in love with it … I actually went to the Cal-Stanford game last year. Our whole high school team went up to the game on Friday night and that was awesome. It was one of the coolest atmospheres I've ever been in."

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