BY STEVE KRAH
Speed has always been a part of Nick Mitchell’s baseball attributes.
“I’ve been one of the fastest one every team I’ve ever been on,” says Mitchell, a lefty swinger from Carmel, Ind.
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, Mitchell showed those wheels as he beat out a grounder to second base in the bottom of the first inning for his 78th hit of the 2022 season to set the franchise record for the collegiate wood bat Northwoods League’s Fon du Lac (Wis.) Dock Spiders. He surpassed Chandler Simpson.
In 55 games through Thursday, Aug. 4, Mitchell is hitting .368 (81-of-220) with three home runs, seven triples, 12 doubles, 47 runs batted in, 66 runs, a .991 OPS (.464 on-base percentage plus .527 slugging average) and 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
He also played in the Northwoods League All-Star Game July 19 in Wisconsin Rapids as a center fielder.
Mitchell landed with the Dock Spiders when his college coaches talked with Fon du Lac manager Zach Charbonneau. He signed a first-half contract then got extended.
“I’ve had a pretty awesome summer,” says Mitchell.
In 46 games (45 starts) at Western Illinois University in the spring, Mitchell hit .342 (63-of-184), one homer, two triples, five doubles, 26 RBIs, 28 runs, a .792 OPS (.384/.408) and 30 steals in 34 attempts.
The 18-year-old produced 19 multi-hit games for the Leathernecks, including five with three or more and led the Summit League and his team in stolen bases. He was named second team all-Summit League as an outfielder.
Mitchell, a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder, also paced Western Illinois in average and triples, tied for first place in runs scored and and was one off the RBI lead.
A 2021 graduate of Carmel High School, where his senior year was his only varsity campaign (the 2020 season was taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic), Mitchell has been a lead-off hitter for Fon du Lac as he was at Western Illinois.
“It’s an important spot,” says Mitchell of No. 1 in the batting order. “I have to see pitches, get on base, let teammates know what I see and be a high-average guy.
“There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Mitchell, who turns 19 on Sept. 3, grew up playing mostly shortstop, second base and third base. He’s turned into full-time outfielder.
“The transition is really good,” says Mitchell. “I’m a better fit in the outfield because of my speed. Besides I knew I would get more opportunities to play in college in the outfield.”
Andy Pascoe, a former University of Evansville player and Butler University assistant coach, was the WIU head coach in Mitchell’s first season.
“I will always be grateful he gave me my only offer to play Division I baseball out of high school,” says Mitchell of Pascoe. “I had just a few offers out of high school. It’s good place to develop and get playing time early.
“It’s a good fit.”
Stealing bases for Mitchell is a matter of reading the man on the mound and the man behind the plate.
“You see how fast the pitcher is working to home,” says Mitchell. “Does he have a big leg kick? Most catchers at this level can catch and throw pretty well.”
Mitchell, who tends to slide head-first on a close play and use a pop-up slide when he knows he has the bag, sees other runners with the new sliding glove — which sort of resembles an oven mitt.
“I’ve never had one of those,” says Mitchell. “It’s not a priority to me. I’m cool with out it.”
Social media and studying major league hitters gets the credit for building his swing.
“I don’t train with anyone,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell grew up in Carmel and played travel ball for Indiana Primetime and later the Indiana Expos — 16U in 2020 with head coach Derek Hankins and 17U in 2021 with Isaac Sampen. Former big league pitcher Bill Sampen is the founder of the organization.
A junior varsity player his first two years at Carmel, Mitchell enjoyed his time being coached by former Greyhounds head coach Matt Buczkowski.
“I learned from him how to compete and step up as competition gets better,” says Mitchell of Buczkowski. “He gave me a good opportunity to get better.”
While he has not yet declared his college major, Mitchell says he is leaning toward Exercise Science or Business.
Bob and Teresa Mitchell have two sons — Jackson (20) and Nick.
Bob Mitchell works for MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) and Teresa Mitchell for Indiana University Health.
Jackson Mitchell (Carmel Class of 2020) was a high school wrestler. He started college at Penn State University and transferred to Purdue University.