Whenever Trevor Mitsui hit one over the fence for the Shorewood High School baseball, his father, Jeff, went running after the ball.
The dad of the Shorewood senior first baseman chased down nearly every home run ball off the bat of Mitsui during his prolific high school career, which means t
hat dad was a very busy man.
During a game one afternoon at Shorewood’s home park, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander lifted a moon shot over the tall trees in deep center field. The ball traveled so far that Mitsui’s coach Wyatt Tonkin estimated that the ball took a hop and made it to the roof of the car dealership adjacent to the field some 500 feet from home plate. Jeff Mitsui wasn’t able to locate that one, but asked Tonkin for a ball from the dugout to commemorate the occasion nonetheless.
“I get to see him in practice everyday, so I get to see the balls he hits in batting practice that are headed toward South America,” Tonkin said.
What made Mitsui The Herald’s All-Area Player of the Year, however, was not just the distance of the balls off his bat, but the amazing rate that he has rattled off hits for not only this season but his career as a Thunderbird.
Mitsui, whose last name is Japanese because his great-grandfather was born in Japan, batted .712 during his senior season to go with 13 home runs. His slugging percentage (1.635) and on base percentage (.845) were No. 1 in the nation among the thousands of high school players across the country listed by MaxPreps.com. Four players posted a better batting average, but none of them displayed the power of Mitsui.
“They kind of seem magical, but they are legit,” Tonkin said defending the otherworldly numbers. “He didn’t just hit bleeders. It was a hard .700. He hits the ball right on the nose.”
Mitsui has been on the path to becoming a hitting savant since he was 10 years old and first got into a batting cage in the backyard of his house. His dad was his primary batting coach until high school when he started working with Kenny Cherryhomes, a hitting instructor based out of Redmond that used to work in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
“I wasn’t expecting to have the season that I had because a lot of people have said those are outrageous numbers,” Mitsui said.
He almost didn’t have the numbers because few teams in Wesco 3A wanted to pitch to Mitsui after seeing him hit .507 with 11 homers as a junior in 2010, when he powered the Thunderbirds to a fourth-place finish in the 4A state playoffs.
Mitsui was walked 42 times — third in the nation according to MaxPreps — in 27 games and Tonkin had to move him to leadoff in order to see any pitches to hit.
This season Mitsui and lefty-ace Blake Snell led the Thunderbirds to a second-place finish in the 3A state playoffs, which ended up in Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, home of the Class AAA Rainiers.
Mitsui didn’t feel like this year was a breakout year as much as part of a steady progression throughout his high school career in which Shorewood went to the state playoffs four times and won both the league and regionals twice, accomplishments he is more proud of than any individual numbers.
“That’s been my goal ever since I was a freshman to improve every category every year and I’ve done that,” Mitsui said.
He doesn’t consider himself a power hitter despite the fact that 21 of his 37 hits went for extra bases this season.
“I feel like a pure hitter,” he explained. “There’s something that Wyatt always said in practice, ‘Hitters don’t hit home runs, pitchers throw them.’ So I just put a good swing on the ball and if it goes out, it goes out.”
Mitsui has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Washington next season, but was drafted Tuesday by the Rays, who also selected Snell the day before. Mitsui went in the 12th round, 390th overall.
“I thought it was cool to hear my name,” Mitsui said about the Internet audio broadcast of the second day of the MLB draft. “Me and my family were just sitting around my TV.”
Right away the 18-year old was swamped with calls and texts.
“It was overwhelming,” he said. “I was just thinking it through in my head, ‘I just got picked.’ All these people were calling me and trying to get a hold of me, saying, ‘Good job’ and ‘Congratulations.’ It was a crazy experience.”
Mitsui hasn’t made the decision to go pro or honor his commitment to the UW, nor will he anytime soon before the Aug. 15 deadline. At this point he feels it’s a 50/50 decision. He admits it would be exciting to continue to play with Snell, who also signed with UW but is widely speculated will sign with the Rays after being selected 52nd overall.
“It would be really cool if we got a chance to room together down at rookie ball,” Mitsui said. “We’re both from the same high school. We started playing ball since we were 11 or 12 and we’ve been on the same team ever since. It’s cool to have someone to share all those memories with.”
If Mitsui ends up at UW, where he said he always dreamed of attending, baseball coach Lindsey Meggs believes he will be able to contribute right away to the Huskies who finished a disappointing 17-37 overall.
“Trevor is such a confident kid, such a levelheaded kid that we think he’s going to be able to survive some of those low points that kids his age have never experienced before and do here for the first time and deal with that, still produce and have a good freshman year and a great career,” Meggs said.
For now Mitsui will enjoy playing summer ball for the Seattle Stars, where opponents haven’t realized how to pitch around him yet the way Wesco teams did. In his first two games of the summer season he hit 4-for-6 with two homers. When the summer is done he’ll decide between UW where he thinks he’d study either business or criminal justice and a contract with the Rays.
Either way Mitsui’s dad is likely to continue to chase those home run balls. At the next level he may have more competition.