Opening day includes tribute to special dad

Get out your folding chairs and head to the baseball fields, because the Claremont Little League season is here. This year’s opening day, March 3, will feature games starting at 8 a.m., a visit from the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and a memorial to longtime coach and volunteer Bob Mitchell, who died in September.

To honor his dad, Mr. Mitchell’s son Tyler, 21, will throw the first pitch during the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

CLL president Andrew Mowbray said Mr. Mitchell, a pitching coach, was a real proponent of arm safety and always available to help anyone.

“Where you get some of these crazy dads, he was always looking out for kids,” Mr. Mowbray said.

Sean Telish echoed Mr. Mowbray, adding that Mr. Mitchell stuck around to help after Tyler outgrew CLL. Mr. Mitchell coached Telish’s son Cooper, who’s now 16.

“[Bob] didn’t have a stake in it other than going to the field,” Telish said. “He became a coach out of the goodness of his heart. He’d give his time and didn’t want anything.”

Mr. Telish even recalled a time when Mr. Mitchell was supposed to be coaching the team against him, but ended up coaching both teams at once.

“He’s supposed to be the enemy,” Mr. Telish thought. “But Bob never treated it that way. He made me think about it—that he’s just here for the kids. Not only did he coach against you, he coached with you.”

Ty Labbe, who coached with Mr. Mitchell, described him as a very special man who loved the game of baseball and was friendly to everybody.

“Not everyone has the ability to go up and correct a dad [who’s teaching his son wrong] without offending the dad,” Mr. Labbe said. But Bob Mitchell could.

Peter Brown started coaching with Mr. Mitchell seven years ago. He remembers his friend’s signature line: “Get your arm up,” which he would tell kids to keep them from injuring themselves while pitching.

But perhaps the best thing about Mr. Mitchell was that he never charged kids for coaching services.

“He did it for the love of the game,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Mitchell coached for six years with Steve Retzlaff and helped his three sons with their pitching. Mr. Retzlaff calls him the “nine-year-old whisperer” for his ability to get kids to immediately listen and improve.

Mr. Retzlaff shared a story about a time right before a little league game, when he was looking for his son. He eventually found Mr. Mitchell teaching nine-year-old Danny a special pitch—the knuckle-change. Thirty minutes later, Danny was throwing the new pitch for strikes, and his dad was in disbelief.

Mr. Retzlaff also said that every team Mr. Mitchell coached, every kid pitched—something rarely, if ever, heard of.

“His love for the kids and the game of baseball will stand out to me forever,” Mr. Retzlaff said. “He came out with patience and he loved the kids of Claremont.”

“CLL is a great program and opening day is always filled with such excitement,” opening day coordinator Carolyn Magallanes wrote in an email to the COURIER.

Additionally, the Kiwanis Club will be putting on a pancake breakfast, Ms. Magallanes said. Claremont High School’s marching band will perform, and several teams—including the Quakes—will bring their mascots. There’ll also be kettle corn, funnel cakes and CLL apparel for sale, and a video game truck for kids.

—Meghan Bobrowsky


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