NEW CASTLE —
Bobby Mitchell’s new year started out with a bang.
The 1985 Mohawk High graduate received and accepted a job offer from the San Diego Padres to be an associate scout under scout Tom Burns.
“I was surprised when he called me,” said Mitchell, who currently lives in Union Township and has been a sales representative for Nestle USA for the past 15 years. “I met Tom at a scouting banquet in Maryland. We talked briefly and I gave him my resume. Over the past 10 years, I’ve heard a lot of ‘Nos,’ but I finally got a ‘Yes’ on New Year’s Day. I’m pretty excited.
“Working with Tom Burns will be an amazing experience. Tom is a legend and has been inducted into the hall of fame. He’s well-known.”
Mitchell, 47, has scouted independently for various organizations for nearly two decades before getting his chance.
“For the past 12 to 15 years, I’ve been doing it on my own, holding showcases for high school players and going to showcases for college players,” he said. “While scouting, I’ll take video to film and watch players. I’ll watch the player over and over until I can shut my eyes and see his every motion in my mind. Over the years, I’ve helped out a lot of different scouts and teams. There are only so many associate scout jobs out there and most are taken by former minor league players or college coaches, so I was excited to get the phone call from Tom.
“To get a big break like this and to become a part of that fraternity is a big thing for me.”
Mitchell will be responsible for scouting the eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania regions for the Padres.
“This will be nothing different than what I already did on my own,” said Mitchell, who attended St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, Fla., and Penn State-Shenango campus. “I may travel two to three hours to watch a game, but unless it’s a weekend tournament or the College World Series, I’ll always come back to New Castle. At most, I’ll be gone a couple days.”
Mitchell faced a harsh reality in the late 1990s when aching knees forced him away from an active participation in baseball.
He dialed in on scouting at that point and began reporting to local associate scouts and coaches, including Detroit’s Tom Osowski and current Seattle general manager and New Castle native Jack Zduriencik.
“In high school, every kid dreams of playing Major League Baseball, but as I got older and my knees got worse, I finally realized I couldn’t play anymore,” he said. “Scouting was a way to stay close to the game and help others. Scouts can come a long way to watch a game. I always thought it’d be neat for someone local to reach out to area scouts.”
Mitchell spent those days networking with fellow scouts, while out on the road.
“I always tried to follow the top prospects in the tri-state area, because I knew the scouts would be there also,” he said. “I asked a ton of questions and I made a network of friends. Former Pirates scout Tom Baker of West Virginia and Brewers scout Don Fontana were a huge help in guiding me.”
Mitchell has hit the ground running with his new job. He already has some winter showcases scheduled and will watch pitchers do mound work inside before practices officially start later this spring.
“It’s already started,” he said. “Scouting baseball is a year-round thing.”
Judging a player’s mental makeup plays a major role in how scouts view prospects, according to Mitchell.
“There’s a lot more to it than the physical tools,” he said. “Every level you go up, it’s more mentally demanding. You’re looking for raw talent to say if he’s a legit prospect or not. It’s like is he a college player or can he fill out a minor league roster? You’ve got to use your previous knowledge to gauge whether he can make it or not.”
Scouts also need to have short memories — just like the players they’re watching.
“Throughout history guys like Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt have been passed up by a lot of scouts,” said Mitchell, a son of John Mitchell. “There were a lot of great scouts that passed them up. That’s part of the game. You’re always learning. You just try to do the best you can at judging the talent you see on the field.”
NEW CASTLE —
Bobby Mitchell’s new year started out with a bang.
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