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Barons strengthen outfield
The Barons traveled to Chattanooga following the memorable opening home-stand on the Southside last week. The bats cooled off after Birmingham swept the Mississippi Braves in five games.
The Barons returned home Saturday night to begin a five-game series against the Huntsville Stars. Saturday night also brought back the return of outfielder Jared Mitchell. Mitchell played last season for the Barons before being called up to triple-A Charlotte. Mitchell has struggled on the young season and looks to turn things around back in Birmingham. The left-fielder played at LSU where he was a two-sport star in baseball and in football. He is the only player to win national championships in both sports (football – 2007 and baseball – 2009).
Opening day starter for the Barons at Montgomery and home-opening night starter at Regions Field, Nestor Molina, was placed on the disabled list to make room for Mitchell’s return. Once Mitchell gets acclimated and settles in again, the Barons could arguably have one of the best outfields in minor league baseball. Mitchell is in left-field alongside Trayce Thompson in right-field and Keenyn Walker in center-field. “Oh, it’s definitely a good group. Everybody likes each other,” Mitchell said. “We mesh well together. We are all working toward the same common goal,” Mitchell said.
The Barons played Friday and Saturday’s games without their manager, Julio Vinas. Vinas flew to Miami to be with his family for the birth of his new child and returned for Sunday’s game against Hunstville. Former White Sox and Cubs all-star infielder, Vance Law took over as manager during Vinas’ absence. Law not only played for both the White Sox and Cubs, but he played in the playoffs with both teams. His 1983 Chicago white Sox team won the American League Western Division and played the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. The 1983 playoff appearance marked the first postseason appearance on the Southside of Chicago since the 1959 World Series.
After being selected as an all-star in 1988 with the Cubs, Law helped guide the Cubs to the NLCS in 1989. Law is a BYU alum and returned to alma mater in 2000 to become the head baseball coach for the Cougars. Law held the position until last season and was partly why he was available to fill in for Vinas’ parental leave of absence.
The move to Birmingham for a few days allowed Law to have a glimpse of the not only Regions Field, but the talent on the 2013 Barons team: “It’s a very talented team. Right now we’re going through a stretch where we’re not swinging the bats as well as I would like to see us, but I think our pitching has kept us in ball games. I think the biggest area we need to concentrate on is situational hitting. We’ve had a number of guys on less than two outs and have not capitalized on that. That’s the area I would like to see this team excel on,” Law said. “We’ve got speed, a little bit of power, guys the White Sox have high hoped for.
The Barons were finishing up their series in Chattanooga for Law’s first game filling in, but returned home for the ex-major leaguer to see Regions Field first hand. “I’ve been to a lot of minor league ballparks throughout my career and this matches up with the best of them. These players are excited to be here, this is really a palace for them. The playing surface is outstanding, it looks like the fans section’s are going to be really outstanding as well. Congratulations to Birmingham for doing this – downtown couldn’t be a better site. It’s awesome and it’s going to be nothing but better as they complete the outside.”
The Barons complete the home-stand with the Huntsville Stars Tuesday, April 23 (7:05 p.m.) and Wednesday, April 24 (11 p.m.) before a road trip that does not bring the Barons back to Regions Field until May 1.