Justin Mitchell ended up hearing his name called but not early enough to have him pursue a professional baseball career just yet.
The Kansas City Royals selected Platte County’s recently graduated senior catcher in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft last week. However, Mitchell remains firmly committed to honoring his scholarship with the University of Oklahoma and will have to wait at least two more years before an MLB team can select him again.
Mitchell and his family had an idea in mind of bonus money needed to make professional baseball an option now. The early rounds came and went Monday, June 12 and Tuesday, June 13, and Mitchell said the bypass didn’t surprise him based on what teams told him leading up to the draft.
The biggest takeaway for the high school star?
“The biggest thing is I’m not that good. It’s just going to make me work harder,” he said early this week.
Mitchell said the Kansas City Royals maintained the closest relationship with him leading up to the draft.
A lifelong fan of the team, Mitchell actually woke up from a nap to find the news of being taken with the 1,170th overall pick on Wednesday, June 14. Teams knew he wouldn’t sign with a pick that late in the draft, but the Royals gave him a lifelong memory no matter how the rest of his baseball career turns out.
“It was pretty cool to get my name called still but I wasn’t too worried at that point,” Mitchell said. “It was a blessing to get drafted by anyone but especially because it was the Royals.”
Mitchell long ago committed to Oklahoma during a four-year career as a starter at Platte County. One of the best players in program history, he earned Class 5 all-state honors for the Pirates each of the past two seasons — their only player to make the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association list since moving into the state’s largest classification.
This past season, Mitchell led Platte County in home runs (eight), RBIs (40), runs (36), walks (26), hit by pitch (five), batting average (.480), on-base percentage (.632) and slugging percentage (1.000). He also tied for the team lead in doubles (11) and triples (two), while ranking second in hits (36).
Mitchell also excelled on defense, calling the game for pitchers during most of his career. As a senior, he recorded six pickoffs, and only 13 runners attempted to steal a base. He threw out two of them.
According to baseball-reference.com, Mitchell is just the second player from Platte County High School to go in the MLB Draft. Jake Blackwood, who played professionally for 10 years, was drafted twice but both times out of Maple Woods (Mo.) Community College, and he was not picked after his senior season with the Pirates in 2004.
Park Hill graduate Aaron Ashby also went during the draft, going to the Rangers in the 25th round with the 764th overall pick.
A first-time selection, Ashby graduated from Park Hill in 2016 and spent the past season playing for Crowder Community College — located in Neosho, Mo. He continued to excel as a high-strikeout, high-walk left-handed pitcher to jump onto the draft radar.
Ashby has yet to sign but has until July 7 to make a decision on whether to accept an offer from the Rangers or continue his college career.
“Absolutely unreal feeling right now,” he tweeted after he was picked Wednesday, June 14.
According to baseball-reference.com, Ashby becomes the fifth player from Park Hill to either be drafted or play in the majors, although current Major League Baseball player Logan Morrison also briefly played for the Trojans. Tommy Hottovy, who played in the major leagues with Boston and Kansas City, spent time at Park Hill and Park Hill South during high school before being drafted in the 2004 fourth round out of Wichita State.
Park Hill graduates Ken Adams (1984) and Troy Eklund (1988 and 1989) were also drafted, while Andy Ashby — Aaron Ashby’s uncle — signed as an undrafted free agent and played parts of 14 seasons in the MLB with the Padres, Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies and Braves, making a pair of All-Star Games. Dalton Moats, a 2013 Park Hill graduate and another left-handed pitcher, currently plays A ball in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Ashby earned second team All-Suburban Conference Red Division honors as a senior at Park Hill in 2016. He went 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA, striking out 62 and walking 23 in just 39 innings.
As a freshman with Crowder, Ashby appeared in 18 games, starting 11. He compiled a 7-0 record while also recording a team-high five saves as a reliever.
Ashby threw 66 innings total, striking out 93 while walking 56. He posted a 4.09 ERA.
The final save of Ashby’s season came in a two-inning effort for Crowder in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in late May. He finished off a win in the Roughriders’ third of four games in Grand Junction, Colo.
Crowder finished 54-14 overall and went 2-2 in NJCAA World Series.