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Outfield lesson sticks with RB standout

05/14/2016, 9:00am PDT
By Terry Monahan

Offense or defense, Broncos junior always has his eye on the ball

Rancho Bernardo’s Calvin Mitchell has 10 homers and 37 RBIs in the first 27 games this season.

Six seasons ago, Calvin Mitchell learned a valuable lesson about staying focused on the baseball field.

Standing in the outfield as a 9-year-old back then, the Rancho Bernardo High junior noticed the laces on one of his cleats was untied. He bent down to tie them and the batter lined a ball toward Mitchell.

“Of course, I missed it,” Mitchell said. “Of course, my teammates made fun of me. They told me I had to triple-knot my shoes from that moment on.

“It’s easy to get bored in the outfield. You could be out there for seven innings and maybe get one ball hit to you.

“I try to move around, back up my bases, anything to keep myself in the game.”

The plan is working well.

Now a right fielder after playing in left his first two varsity seasons, Mitchell has 10 home runs and 37 RBIs to lead the Palomar League in both categories.

He has already surpassed his homer total of six and RBI total of 31 during last year’s run to the San Diego Section Open Division championship.

“That was the best feeling ever,” Mitchell said of the title. “It was the first time in my baseball career where we won the last game of the season to win a championship.

“It felt like everything I imagined it would feel like.”

Three days after claiming the championship, the Broncos were back playing a summer league game.

“That was a little hard to do, going from the CIF championships to an ordinary summer league game,” Mitchell said. “The coaches have ingrained it in our heads that this is a new team with new guys.

“We have to do things the right way to continue to be Rancho Bernardo baseball.”

The Broncos (20-7) are back in contention once again, trailing only Poway, the defending Division I champion, in the league race.

Mitchell, who was 5-10, 180 pounds as a freshman, earned a spot on the varsity, turning in a respectable .267 batting average with no homers and 14 RBIs.

“He had a lively bat when he got here,” Broncos coach Sam Blalock said. “With freshmen, they have to play a substantial amount of time to stay here.

“We watched him, and in Calvin’s case our older players were telling us he could play.”

His batting average improved to .333 last season and is at .400 this spring.

Mitchell — now 6-1, 200 — still remembers his first base hit as a Bronco. It came in his first at-bat for RB.

“I lined a double down the right-field line against, I think, Carlsbad,” Mitchell said. “Drove in a run, too.”

Mitchell is closing in on 100 career base hits.

“I do my best to stay up the middle so I don’t become a one-dimensional hitter who tries to pull everything,” he said. “When you really hit one on the screws, it feels like you didn’t even hit it.

“Hit one off the end of the bat and your hands will ring, like the bat is punishing you for not hitting it well.”

Mitchell began playing T-ball at age 4 and immediately fell in love with the game. He tried a few other sports like soccer and basketball, but nothing grabbed him like baseball.

“I remember some of the Broncos from the early 2000s and they were ridiculously big,” said Mitchell, who has lived in Rancho Bernardo since kindergarten. “Some of those guys looked like giants when I started watching games when I was 12 or 13.”

Mitchell has become the latest Bronco to be a giant on the baseball field.

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