Whittle: Ex-Red Sox pitching in higher league

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Writer's Note: Brothers Charlie and John Mitchell achieved boyhood dreams of pitching in the Major Leagues. Both, now retired at ages 52 and 49 respectively, share Jesus Christ and their baseball experiences to youth locally and around the globe as part of their faith.

In America's professional ranks, Charlie Mitchell ascended to the game's highest level ... the Major Leagues.
However, the former Red Sox ball player says he now "pitches in a higher league," as he uses baseball to reach youth on behalf of Christianity.

"I volunteer as a coach for little guys on travel teams in the summers. We've taken young players from Rutherford County to play in Brooklyn, N.Y. and in some small Mayan villages in Mexico," Charlie pitched about his spirituality for youth. "I also serve as a paid coach for Stewart Creek High School's baseball team, and I formerly coached at La Vergne High School."

Inclement weather caused cancellation of an indoor workout for Stewart Creek pitchers this past weekend.
When the lanky (6 feet, three inch) red-head walks into Smyrna's Life Point Church, he serves as a magnet to youth and adults alike.

"I'm a sophomore in-fielder and pitcher at Stewart Creek High," testified 15-year-old Life Point member Gresham Mosley. "It's pretty cool having a former Major League pitcher helping coach our team."

"Everyone takes notice when big, long and tall Charlie walks into the building," confirmed church adult volunteer David Bass. "He and his wife Gina are devoted church members, especially on behalf of youth."

"I played an old timer's game back at Columbia State with Charlie," added Life Point member Ben Amick. "Charlie, a modest soft-spoken man, is amazing and funny when he opens up at the podium. Which makes him a great spokesman to youth."

As a child back in the Nashville Pee Wee Leagues, Charlie realized he had a love for the game that was coached by his late father, Robert Mitchell, who came from East Tennessee to live in Middle Tennessee when stationed at old Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna.

The former Major League-playing brothers' mother, Reba Horner Mitchell Brown, also was supportive of their ball playing.

Pitching a baseball was a physical gift that took Charlie first to college, and ultimately, to the fabled Boston Red Sox professional Major League organization.

"I was a starting pitcher at Columbia State," Charlie shared.

But, he didn't have blazing speed on his pitches.

"I relied on a lot of ball movement," Charlie tossed back in time. "I had a sinker, slider and change-up."

Despite not have a blazing fastball, a famous scout for the Red Sox signed Charlie to a professional contract, after witnessing him get batters out at nearby Columbia State.

"It was before radar guns were invented, because scout George Digby told me he never used one in scouting me or any other prospects for the Red Sox," Smyrna resident Charlie recalls. "Apparently he did OK without modern equipment, for today, (the late) Mr. Digby is in baseball's Hall of Fame for scouting."

That same scout later signed younger brother John to a Red Sox contract.

Although the Red Sox signed him, that was not Charlie's "chosen team" as a child.

"I grew up playing baseball like it was a normal part of life," Charlie accounts. "That's just what you did. The Braves were my favorite team, and Hank Aaron was my favorite player. Phil (knuckle ball thrower) Niekro was my favorite pitcher.

"Every time I played baseball in my backyard against a brick wall, I acted like I was on the Braves," Charlie recalled. "I would be every Braves' player in the lineup."

His pitching at Nashville's Overton High School was good enough to earn a scholarship at Columbia State Junior College.

"That got me to the college level, which in turn, got the attention of professional scouts," Charlie noted.

After signing a pro contract in 1982, Charlie's "ball movement" helped him rise fast through the ranks of the minor leagues.

"Before I was called up in 1984, I had evolved into the 'stopper' in relief for the Sox at the AAA level," Charlie added.

The years' he pitched for the Nashville Sounds were among his most enjoyable in the pro ranks.

"(Wife) Gina and I had started our family ... being close to home with the Sounds, meant, when not traveling, I could help change diapers at home before going to Nashville's Greer Stadium to pitch a baseball," Charlie accounted. "Travel is tough for a pro baseball player, especially for married family men."

Since meeting on a "blind date," Gina and Charlie have three adult children, Ross, Reed and Emily. But, they didn't stop there ...

"They're our grown biological children," Charlie added. "We're blessed to have adopted little guys, Nate, 7, and Abe, 6, who are little brothers from Ethiopia."
Although the love for baseball was enjoyable as he reached maturity, there was "something missing," Charlie assessed.
"I was living my dream, and had always gone to church," Charlie accounted. "But when someone would ask me about relationship with God, I'd just say 'I'm a Methodist.' Mom and Dad always made certain we attended church."
After entering the pro ranks, Charlie began attending team chapel services.

He got "spiritual relief" in of all places possible ... the bullpen where relief pitchers sit and warm up before being called into the game.

"After going to chapel with teammates, that was the day I stood in the bullpen, and accepted Christ as my savior," Charlie confirmed.

And he's been "pitching for Christ" ever since, literally and figuratively.

"As part of giving back, I help coach young players, helping them understand that being an athlete, like any talent and blessing, is a gift from God," Charlie confirmed.

They attend New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro as part of the family's faith walk.
Mitchell does volunteer coaching of youth baseball players in Rutherford County. Some of his summer travel youth teams have witnessed for Christ in foreign countries.

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Dan Whittle
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