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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Preps

Mitchell High grad building foundation in Mass. Success in Cape Cod prepares him for big things


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— Connor Hale is a long way from home.

That’s a good thing.

The 2011 Mitchell High graduate is playing, and succeeding, in the Cape Cod Baseball League, enough so he landed himself a spot in the league’s All Star Game this evening. Hale, 21, has come a long way from being a sparsely recruited infielder for the Mustangs.

“I never imagined this,” said Hale, who is batting .301 with 24 RBIs, 40 hits and four homers for the Falmouth Commodores. “I’m a long way from Trinity, but things have worked out perfectly. I’m very happy to try and to do my best to keep up the legacy of players coming out of Mitchell.”

From Mitchell, where he hit .505 with 37 RBIs and six homers as a senior, Hale played two years for State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, where he was Suncoast Conference Player of the Year in 2013 thanks to a .366 average and 67 RBIs. That drew the attention of LSU, where he spent 2014 batting .306 with 64 hits, 38 runs, 11 doubles, a triple, four homers and 29 RBIs.

Before heading to Baton Rouge, Hale went to Cape Cod to play for Falmouth as super-utility infielder, lived with a host family and worked a part-time job.

“Having a kid like that in this league,” Commodores assistant coach Brad Stoll said, “is valuable because you can float him around the infield and keep him in the lineup. He is by far the most consistent player we have. Not flashy, but steady. He’s a great teammate and always seems to come up clutch in the RBI situations.”

To the Commodores surprise, Hale wasn’t taken in June’s baseball draft, so before his senior season at LSU, Hale opted to play another season in the Cape.

“We were just floored he came back this summer because we figured he’d be drafted,” Stoll said. “We were elated as a coaching staff to have him back.”

Hale has never been considered a power hitter, despite batting cleanup for the Commodores. Hale drives in runs, being a contact hitter since playing for Mitchell.

“He’s always had the ability to crush the ball and make contact,” Mustangs coach Scot Wilcox said. “I never doubted his ability to hit at any level. I’m not surprised by how well he’s doing, though I wasn’t sure about LSU for him, but look at him now.

“I never frown on someone going to JUCO. Good things can happen after that — you can get drafted, play in Cape Cod, so look at Connor and what he’s doing. He’s good to show kids I have later on that aren’t getting recruited heavily. … I can only imagine what its like to play in the Cape Cod League, but it doesn’t get much better than that because he’s facing some of the best pitching in the country and hitting them.”

More importantly, Hale is hitting with a wooden bat, unlike using an aluminum one at LSU. Using a wooden bat, as well as road trips on a small yellow school bus, is just more preparation for the majors, as Hale looks to be drafted next summer.

“This prepares you for the bigs because every kid here is the best from their school,” Hale said. “You’re playing with and against the best of the best.”

Hale has come a long way from playing on small fields in Trinity and Bradenton to now in front of thousands of fans a year at LSU. But as he plays on small fields in Cape Cod, though in front of dozens of scouts a night, he’s at home. For now.

“My main focus, after winning here in Falmouth, is winning a national championship at LSU,” Hale said. “I would love to be drafted, play minor league ball, make the bigs — that’s any player’s dream, right? I’m even more prepared for it after playing here in the Cape, but everything will work out for itself. It’s baseball, after all.”

Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at mike.camunas@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.

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