Lively lands in AAA — just one step away from the major leagues
April 10 — Nearly every patriotic, red-blooded American boy has imagined himself crouched on the mound in the big leagues, twirling a hardball in his fingers behind his back, shaking off the catcher time after time and finally hurling the strike three pitch that wins the big, big game.
That possibility could soon become a reality for Lassen High School graduate Mitch Lively, who spent spring training with the San Francisco Giants, but was sent down to the AAA Fresno Grizzlies to get a little more experience and seasoning.
When the newspaper caught up with Lively, he was lounging around the pool in Arizona waiting for a game later that evening. The Grizzlies open up in Tucson, so Lively hasn’t seen his new home field yet, Chukchansi Park, located in downtown Fresno.
“It’s AAA, just one step away from the show,” Lively said. “I’m a middle reliever, a shut-off guy who comes in for the seventh or eighth inning before the closer. That’s all I’ve been doing. What’s kept me around so long is I can go four or five days in row. A lot of people don’t do that, they go one or two days in a row, and they get days off. Whenever they give me the ball, I’m ready to pitch. At the big league level you’ve got to be ready to throw everyday. If you’re going to do that in the big leagues, you might as well do it in the minor leagues.”
Even the Reno Aces are making a big deal about Lively’s appearance there in June.
“I’m really excited to be coming home and playing,” Lively said. “I haven’t had a chance to play close to home since I was in college, and I played against the University of Nevada, Reno. This is right here close to home. It will be fun.”
Lively beamed about his spring training experience with the big leaguers.
“Oh, man, it was such a surreal experience,” Lively said. “(Playing in the big leagues) is something you dream about. I’ve been around the big leaguers before, but to have a shot and to be there and to look at it as if I actually have a chance to make the team, that was the best experience of my life. It was everything you could imagine it could be, plus more because I’m all grown up.”
Although he didn’t make the team, Lively said, “I’m still working for it. I’m one step closer. I’m really excited. I’m biting at the bit. I’m right there, and it motivates me to keep working hard because I can actually see my hard work’s paying off.”
During spring training Lively said he pitched in four games and he felt he did well. In his last outing he said he had a good first inning and then had some “bad luck” where some of the balls fell in, but he thinks his skills are good enough for the show.
“I feel like I’m right there, throwing them in for strikes — throwing strikes is the most important thing up there, and being able to command the fast ball,” Lively said.
Lively praised the Giants’ pitching staff for their help, cooperation and the courtesy they displayed to a young pitcher like himself.
“It was awesome,” Lively said. “I thought they would be kind of standoffish, but they were really open to talking to me. Everybody was really cool. Tim Lincecom, Brian Wilson, they were all like, ‘Hey, do you need anything?’ I would just stand there at batting practice and pick their brains about how to pitch and what to expect when you get up there. What to do and what not to do. So, it was really cool.”
Lively said he was happy to have the opportunity to play in Fresno and live in California again. He said he plans to live in Clovis, a town just northeast of Fresno.
He said the Grizzlies play all over the United States, but they fly to their away games. He also was excited to be able to play in Sacramento in front of all his college friends.
Lively said he’s put on some weight since his days in Susanville, and he’s now listed at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 240 pounds.
“I’m about 60 pounds bigger,” Lively said with a laugh. “One of the things they like to talk about is how big guys are. It definitely helps you. They’re looking for big, strong pitchers throughout the organization. More than 70 percent of the pitchers are over 6 feet, 2 inches tall. There are not very many short pitchers.”
But Lively said the secret to the whole thing is staying healthy.
“You can’t play if you’re not healthy,” Lively said. “There are a hundred guys trying to get the spot I’m at just in my organization. Staying healthy is definitely the key.”