New Thunder Manager Bobby Mitchell has spent his first few weeks in the Yankees organization down in Tampa trying to get a pulse on the young talent that he will be overseeing when camp breaks in ten days. Mitchell, who was most recently the Minor League Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator with the Atlanta Braves over the course of the previous two seasons, has been pleasantly surprised by the tight-knit atmosphere surrounding camp.
“I think this a lot different camp than some of the other ones that I have been in,” admitted Mitchell. “The good ones are always somewhat family oriented; when everyone just seems to get along very well and I am finding that to be the case here. Nobody here is walking on egg shells and I think that is the best way to run an organization.”
The 60-year old Mitchell, who will turn 61 on Opening Night added, “I’m brand new and still getting to know everybody and they have welcomed me with open arms. Right away, I felt completely comfortable around everybody.”
Mitchell faces the daunting task of getting to know dozens of players and their strengths and weaknesses on and off the field in a short span of time. While he realizes that he will rely heavily on his staff in the decision-making process throughout the season, Mitchell believes that it is vital to establish a personal relationship with his players in the early going.
“I rely a lot on information that I am given from staff that has been here for a while,” said Mitchell. “I’m trying to form a relationship with the players pretty quickly. I have coached and roved around most of my years in pro-ball, so I have often had to get to know a lot of players. I try to get to know all of the players because you never know who is really going to be on your roster. The best part of my job is teaching; trying to earn their respect and confidence in your ability to teach them is one of the biggest challenges in coming into a new organization.”
Back in January when Mitchell first signed on to manage the Thunder, he proclaimed that the brand of baseball in Trenton would be ultra-aggressive and predicated on speed. Mitchell has worked closely with the teams Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator Reggie Willits, who he managed when both were members of the Angels organization.
“I know that learning the baserunning philosophy is going to be a process,”Mitchell said. “I know Reggie [Willits] well, I coached him in the Angels organization and he is trying to instill a base running philosophy that they’re not very familiar with. It’s an aggressive but intelligent way of running the bases. I have seen the philosophy work a ton in other organizations that I have been with and from what I have seen, we have run the bases outstanding.”
Arm & Hammer Park may not see many home runs in 2016 but there will be no shortage of stolen bases. Top-prospects Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and Abiatal Avelino, who combined for 166 stolen bases last season, are all projected to suit up in Trenton at some point this season. Mitchell sure appears to be equipped with the horses he needs to cater to his preferred style.
“We still have a lot of decisions to be made and I still have no idea who is going to be on our team,” said Mitchell. “It all trickles down from the big league team, but I am very pleased at the talent level that I have seen and it has me very excited at the challenge and grind of the upcoming season. I am excited to get started.“