Mitchell Powers Up and Career Takes Off

There is a tendency to think of players who have been around for a few years but still laboring in the lower minors as ancients. Instead of looking for a bat and ball, they should be applying for an AARP card and searching out assisted living homes. That sort of thing.

At times, it is best to remember that many if not most of the Dodgers of late signed out of high school. It's expected unless one demonstrated an extraordinary amount of precocity that they're in the process of learning what some college-trained players have already applied. So, it may take a little longer but if the athletic skills are there and the aptitude is good, there's a good chance they'll start moving right along.

Take the case of Russ Mitchell. Here he was this year in his third season yet back at Ogden, almost where he started. Yet, please note that he's only 20 and just growing into the game. That's something he did quite well for the Raptors.

At first when Mitchell signed in 2003, spurning a scholarship from Georgia Tech to turn pro immediately although he was selected down in the 15th round, he showed considerable batting prowess hitting .338 in the Gulf Coast League. In 2004, he moved up to Vero Beach before he was sent back to Columbus when Andy LaRoche emerged.

He hit .249 at Vero but slumped badly at Columbus to .201. What's more important, he had managed only one home run in those two seasons, simply not acceptable for a third baseman.

"Work to get stronger," he was told. He strived to add bulk for strength but piled on too many pounds so was consigned to the extended camp at the start of the season in order to work them off. He did that and was sent to Vero but that was when LaRoche was still there so he became something of a utility man, playing first and a little of second.

He did drill his first home run for Vero, then was sent to Jacksonville to fill a backup role. At last when the short season leagues opened, it was all the way down the ladder to Ogden to play third and hopefully deliver with more sock.

That he certainly did, removing all doubt that he could supply power with 13 home runs. His 54 RBI led the Pioneer League. His average climbed back up to .289. At the end, he was voted the Most Valuable Player on a team that was good enough to make the playoffs.

This fall was spent in the Instructional League. Gone was the talk of learning a number of positions for he was at third every day. In the spring, a somewhat discouraged Mitchell had asked to get in some outfield time so now would have the ideal setting to work on that if that was the thinking.

Did anyone talk to him working at another spot? "No, not a word," was his answer. Nor did he ask.

For the time being then, Mitchell is a third baseman because they feel that his power production is only just beginning. Oh, that could be subject to change down the road because, remember, there's time.

After all, he's not old enough to vote yet but seems ready for that move upward at last.

In this game, you have to be patient for the kids are still becoming men. In Mitchell's case, it's the end of the beginning with new horizons in sight.