By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After a standout career at Lower Moreland HS and Neumann University, Gary Mitchell was drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Since then, the left-handed hitting outfielder has steadily been working his way up the ladder in the Angels organization. This season he calls Single-A Cedar Rapids home.
Mitchell is enjoying the ride as a pro baseball player and says he is pleased with his progress.
“If I move up a level each year, can’t be mad about that. There’s about seven levels so it’s a long process but you just got to stick with it. Every time you move up it’s, ‘Alright, they like what they see.’ So just keep working hard.”
Mitchell says he has made strides in all facets of his game, but it is in the field where he has really come a long way.
“Working with the outfielder rovers and coaches. They worked on my routes, they worked on my throwing and everything. Because when I was at Neumann, that was really the first time I ever played outfield, so I was new at it. So they took me under their wing and they helped me out so I feel like I’ve gotten better in the outfield.”
At the plate, Mitchell is hitting .252 and he has started to develop a power stroke. In his first year as a pro he didn’t hit a single home run. Last season in the rookie Pioneer League, he hit seven. This season for the “Kernels”, he has already matched that total of seven long balls – doing so in just 111 at bats. He says increased strength is one reason why he’s driving the ball more effectively.
“They got us on this great program, worked on the offseason. They helped me out hitting a little bit, they tried to get me more ‘handsy’, more loose. I wasn’t using my whole body. So I think that’s where it was, just relaxing and having confidence and letting my hands do the work instead of my whole body.”
Now Mitchell is a couple of years removed from his days at Neumann in Aston, but he says he still pays attention to his old team’s success – the Knights advanced to the DIII NCAA Tournament for the first time ever this past season.
“I talk to Coach (John) Fleming every once in a while. He actually sent me a text (Thursday) morning, saying ‘Keep it up, your swinging the bat pretty well’. So I do, I follow them.”
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.