Two Golden Bears, Mitchell Kranson and Brian Celsi, are excelling this summer playing for the Fayetteville (N.C.) SwampDogs in the Coastal Plain League. Kranson is currently batting .247 with a team-high 10 doubles and is second on the squad with 25 RBI, while Celsi is hitting .286 with eight doubles and a team-best 27 RBI.
Below is a feature on Kranson - who will be in his sophomore season this upcoming year for David Esquer's squad - written by Nicholas Marek of the SwampDogs.
In today’s day age when households have more televisions than people, children are able to respect America’s pastime on TV before they even learn to walk. Some toddlers will grow up to admire the athletes they see at home, but for Mitchell Kranson, he had a relationship with baseball before he can remember.
“The day I was born, my dad put a baseball hat on me,” Kranson said.
“I literally went shopping and it took me five hours to find a baseball cap that was not gigantic. The good news was we found a little Nike cap and that’s what he went home (from the hospital) in,” Mitchell’s father Bob Kranson reflected.
“I started hitting balls in the house off the tee and once I started hitting them a little too hard and breaking a couple of things, I went outside.” Mitchell said.
Ever since Bob introduced him to baseball, Mitchell has never looked back. When Mitchell was asked to play outside, the Kranson family realized that baseball would be a critical part of Mitchell’s and his brother Ryan’s lives.
Bob built his sons a batting cage in their backyard in Danville, California and he worked with his sons for years in that cage. Hundreds of thousands of baseballs were knocked around during the countless hours of batting practice.
“I credit a lot of my success to (my dad) because he’s a lefty and so that’s why I tend to hit lefty pitching better,” Mitchell said. “He’s been there the whole time. He coached me when I was younger and then passed me along to other (coaches) when I got a little older because he knew that it was time to move on.”
Mitchell had a wake-up call when the teenage years rolled around and he was invited to play for the USA 14U National Team. He got his first taste of what baseball would be at the next level and despite playing well, he was not invited back to a team USA roster.
Though it hurt at first, Mitchell and his father did not let the news bother them. In fact, it only made Mitchell that much more determined.
“(Mitchell) was very disappointed over the fact that he wasn’t selected to the U16 team. I said, ‘you know what? Eventually you’ll have to make a decision in life. There is no right answer to this. You have a choice. Do you want to finish first, first or first, last?’,” Bob said.
Some people exceed expectations at an early age and could pan out to be less relevant in the future while others will continue to build on their potential until they make it to the top. It did not take Mitchell long to come up with his answer. After his high school graduation and receiving his scholarship to play for the University of California - Berkeley, Mitchell told his father that he made the right choice to finish first, last.
Everything fell into place at the right time during his senior year of high school when he won the East Bay Athletic League MVP and was a second team All-California selection.
“What’s funny is when I was growing up, (I wanted to go to) Stanford. My room had Stanford everything. I even had my wall painted Stanford red,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t really have a dream, dream school. It’s more like finding the right actual fit and finding a program I could play at and not sit for a couple of years so finding a school like that was more important.”
The utility player made his choice to play division one baseball in the Pac-12 Conference for the Golden Bears. Academically, California is the best public school in the country according to US News and Mitchell has decided to explore his options in business.
It took Mitchell around a dozen games of watching from the dugout until he began to make an impact on the Golden Bears’ lineup as a true freshman. Before playing for the Fayetteville SwampDogs, Kranson batted .333 in May with a home run, double, five RBIs and six runs scored slugging mainly out of the five-hole.
He played his freshman season at the hot corner, but he says he sees himself as a future catcher because it’s a more natural fit for him.
“As much as I love playing third base… I feel I’m smarter at the plate when I catch because I see twice as many pitches as anyone on the field,” Kranson said. “I think my future in the game is catching because I’m not going to be as tall as people.”
Don’t be fooled by his 5-foot-8, 200-pound frame. Kranson led the SwampDogs with 20 RBIs and seven doubles through the first half of the season. With the hot month he had at the plate, it would be easy to say he is finishing first, first. But in reality, he is in line to be an every day starter in the Pac-12 Conference for his remaining college eligibility.
Though he does not have a lot of college experience behind the plate, he could potentially replace one of the best backstops in the NCAA last season – Andrew Knapp. The newest member of the Philadelphia Phillies is a switch-hitting phenom who has a similar story to Kranson.
Just like Kranson, Knapp spent his first two season with the Golden Bears playing first base and outfield before he had a chance to catch full time during his junior year. Kranson will be entering his second season with California and he very well may be the heir to take over catching duties. Improvement for Kranson comes down to repetition and he hopes to one day make it to the professional level.
“I really enjoy calling pitches. I feel like I know the hitters pretty well since I’m a hitter and I know how to pitch to certain guys,” Kranson said. “I want to play as long as I can. I feel like I’ll know when it’s done. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll do something involved with business and probably in sports.”
He has at least two more years until he is draft eligible, but he is well on his way to success. Playing for the SwampDogs is just another stepping stone in his baseball career and another obstacle that Kranson is conquering.
“To be able to watch him live his dream is priceless. Absolutely priceless,” Bob Kranson said.
At the rate Mitchell is playing, it will not be long until he becomes a leader in the Pac-12 and an athlete that professional scouts will have on their radar.