NSA team gets a taste of the big-time

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy rising sophomore Toby Buchanan is the full-time catcher in the bullpen for the Peninsula Pilots of the Coastal Plain League. — (Ralph Wood/Peninsula Pilots Photo & Video Gallery)

By Titus Mohler


Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball players are getting an opportunity this summer to work out with high-level college players and Major League draftees thanks to NSA coach David Mitchell.


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Mitchell, who began coaching at NSA this past year, is an assistant coach with the Hampton-based Peninsula Pilots in the Coastal Plain League. The CPL is a professional development league designed to help elite college players get to the majors and MLB draftees to boost their value prior to being signed.

“Me being over here allows an open door for kids from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, baseball players (in) particular,” Mitchell said, “to come out and be around very good college baseball players from some of your major ACC, Big East, Southern conference schools and learn from them, work out with them, ask questions, just be a sponge around these guys for most of the summer.”

During the high school season, NSA’s players benefit from Mitchell’s coaching, but in this context, the benefits come in a different way.

“It’s all interaction for them with these other players, because my responsibility this summer (is) the Pilots’ players,” Mitchell said. “So, basically, what I’ve told the kids from Nansemond-Suffolk is, ‘You’ve got an opportunity, here it is. Come out, I’m going to introduce you to the players. From that point on, it’s your responsibility to kind of shadow these elite players for the day and for the season.’”

Mitchell said NSA players Jake Grady, Greg Beale, Toby Buchanan, Reece Walton, and Mitchell Williams are regulars for Pilots workouts.

“Jake Grady’s an outfielder. He’ll hang around all the outfielders during that time period,” Mitchell said. “And what’s neat is, we’ve got all these players from all these different schools, so Jake can talk to Mitchell Shifflett from UVA, and then right next to him is Zac MacAneney from UNC Greensboro, then next to him is Cameron Gibson from Georgia Tech.”

Rising sophomore catcher Toby Buchanan has been able to take a permanent role with the Pilots this summer.

“He’s actually the full-time bullpen catcher over here,” Mitchell said. “He gets here early and catches all of our pitchers pre-game and during the game in the bullpen. So, on a nightly basis, he’s catching guys from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, so forth and so on. You’ve got guys that are throwing it upwards of 95 miles per hour.”

Each year, an average of 15 to 16 players who play with the Pilots get drafted into Major League Baseball. Some get drafted after having left.

“One of those players this year is a former Nansemond-Suffolk alumni, Matt Davenport,” Mitchell said. “He played for the Pilots a few years back; he was from William & Mary. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Tigers this year.”

Last year, Jake Cave, a standout from Kecoughtan High School, was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Yankees. He came to play with the Pilots until his signing period and then became a part of the Yankees’ minor league system, playing for the Tampa Yankees in Florida.

“Then, when his season finished, he actually came out to Nansemond-Suffolk back in October, and Jake spoke to our JV and varsity baseball players.” Mitchell said. “So, that was a pretty neat opportunity, as well, through the Pilots.”