By James Tubb on December 19, 2023.
From pitching coach to head coach, Kevin Mitchell’s efforts at the helm of the Medicine Hat Mavericks have been recognized at the highest honours in the WCBL.
In an announcement of the league’s awards for the 2023 season, Mitchell was named the Western Canadian Baseball League’s coach of the year. The first-year skipper took over midseason and led the Mavs to a 30-26 regular season record and a run to the league finals that fell just short in Game 3.
Mitchell learned of the news from Mavs owner/general manager Greg Morrison and says it made his day to be recognized at that level.
“I’m proud of the work that I did up there last year, it just feels good to be recognized,” Mitchell said. “Especially the way he shared the news with me, there was a pretty clear decision on the part of the owners and GMs. To have that support and to know that people notice, because I don’t know who’s paying attention, I like to think everybody’s paying attention, but I don’t really know who’s keeping an eye on things. To know there are people are watching and that I made an impact, it felt good.”
The Mavs have already announced Mitchell will return to the helm of the Mavs for the 2024 WCBL season. Morrison says he enjoyed working with Mitchell last season and he has appreciated all the work Mitchell has put it for next season.
“He’s a very personable guy, very open guy, the players really enjoyed playing for him,” Morrison said.”Stepping up halfway through the season is not easy, I had the great bird’s eye view being on the field there of just how he engaged with the players and how they talk to him throughout the game. It was a great experience for me to be out there and be able to see how he engages the players and gets the best out of those boys.”
Mitchell entered the summer as the Mavs’ pitching coach in an assistant role to head coach Mark Goodman. When Goodman left the team for a professional opportunity in late June, Mitchell stepped into the role. The Mavs closed out their season on a 14-4 streak to finish the season 30-26. They swept the Regina Red Sox in two games, then upset the Moose Jaw Miller Express for the East Division title before ultimately falling in the league finals to the Okotoks Dawgs.
Mitchell is the first Mavs coach to be named coach of the year since Andrew Murphy claimed the title in 2018 after a 39-7 season.
The 2024 WCBL season is slated to get underway May 24 and Mitchell says he’s already dreaming every night of getting back to Medicine Hat and in the confines of Athletic Park. With the players the Mavs have committed and are recruiting to bring in, Mitchell says he’s looking to improve on their season last year and can’t wait to get the season underway.
“With what we have returning and the guys we’re bringing on that it’ll be their first time, either first time with us or first time in the league, I think we’re going to be really strong across the board,” Mitchell said. “It’s really those returning guys because a big part of this is the culture we build, the camaraderie, the attitude. Something I told our players throughout the year last year is that winning is a skill. It’s something we got better at throughout the year. These guys come from different programs all over North America. Some of them don’t come from very successful programs, at least on the win-loss column.
“So learning how to finish games, learning what it takes to be a winning team, it’s a skill and we developed that. So having guys return who were really key parts of our team last year and knowing what it takes to get to where we got, it’s huge. I’m excited to have those guys back and I’m excited to bring some new faces into the mix. We’re going to come out hot and play really good baseball all summer long.”