When you watch as much baseball as Ross and I do, and we guesstimate we saw somewhere between 70-75 baseball games last season alone. (That’s both spring training and regular season.) You get invested in a player. With some, they’ll catch your eye and stay there.
We actually started watching Derrick Mitchell with interest, back in 2010. He was playing with the Clearwater Threshers. Ross and I came down at the end of the season and took to sitting out along the third base line, out by the outfield. Clearwater doesn’t draw that well in the heat of late summer so we had an entire section to ourselves. That night, Derrick was in center and he ran to left center to catch a ball. He lept up and snagged it from over the fence and brought it back. I was amazed by the height he got to to capture that ball. That same week, Derrick caught all three balls in one inning, providing the defense for the entire team.
Since we were the only ones out there, we took to saying hello and I got Derrick’s autograph before we went home.
We ran into him in the spring of 2011 and he remembered us. From then on, we made it a point to chat and to try to make as many Reading Phillies games as we could manage.
We stayed in touch and this spring, we were pleased to hear that Derrick got THE CALL. We found out last night that he was scheduled to play today in a split squad Phillies game against the Detroit Tigers. Ross and I decided to scrap our other plans and do what we could to make the game.
We got up early and headed to the box office and got lucky and scored front row seats that had been returned to the box office.
Batting practice began. Derrick took his turns and CRUSHED 5 or 6 of them right out of the park! He was hitting as well as Hunter Pence had the week before. He rattled chairs as several of the balls hit the chairs in the area just below the Frenchy’s Tiki Bar.
After watching Derrick hit 3 or 4 out a gentleman behind me exclaimed, “That 22 (Derrick) can really hit!”
One of the balls went so far out it hit the BBQ hut that sits just inside the fence at the back of the park. It hit the roof of the hut with such force I could hear it all the way back at our seats that were close to the dug out. What was amazing is that later, Ross went out there to get a beer and chatted with the hostess about the ball…eventually, he talked her into giving him the ball that Derrick hit. He then brought it to me. Proof that Derrick crushed the ball is that the ball was tattooed with the pattern of the thatched roof. (As seen below)
I was happy to add this to my Derrick Mitchell Out of the Park Ball Collection that I started in Harrisburg last summer. (To read that Blog and to see the ball and the video of the out of the park home run, click HERE)
He talked to Mike Schmidt while taking batting practice.
When he came over on his way back to the the locker room after practice, I gave him a Major League Baseball to sign. 🙂
After we talked for a moment, Derrick was swarmed with people asking for his autograph. It was amazing to imagine that 2 years ago, it was Ross and I alone asking for his autograph and this morning, there were dozens, clamoring and shoving just to have him sign their gear. He fit in, just like a major leaguer.
Derrick was also picked to be the catcher for the honorary first pitches before the game.
The game started. To be frank, I was nervous. I wanted nothing more than for Derrick to get in the game and just be ok, to not do anything that would be less than spectacular. Ross ever the pessimist, kept telling me to not get my hopes up, that this was the first time he’d been asked up that he may just not get a chance to play.
So we waited.
Then in the eighth, out he ran, right into right field. In that first inning, he got a put out!
To see video of his first catch, click HERE
Then in the ninth, he came up to bat.
He got a hit!
He eventually made it to third (and to see that video, click HERE) before Jiwan James took strike three to end the inning.
While the game ended in a tie, our rookie had an impressive first game, a total of 2 put outs and a hit with one at bat. So how many other rookies do you know that start their major league career with a .1000 batting average?
It was so amazing to see him chase his dream and catch it. Rightfully, he was a happy guy after the game. I just want to say congratulations to him for catching the dream.
EDITED TO ADD: Please read this “Thank You” to all of you…