Mitch Turner came late to the baseball party.
Originally a football player, the Paducah Chiefs right-hander played his first competitive baseball four years ago as a freshman at Willis High School in Willis, Texas -- 48 miles north of Houston.
"I didn't really care much for baseball," said Turner, who recently completed his first season at Northeast Texas Community College, alongside Chiefs catcher John Michael Russ and left-hander Sawyer Smallwood.
"It wasn't until I was 14 that I quit football and started playing baseball. I realized I was pretty decent at it and I've been trying to take it as far as I can," Turner said.
And, when Turner started, he wasn't a pitcher.
"In the very beginning, I bounced around a lot in the outfield," he said. "I was a pretty fast guy and had a good arm. The reason I didn't like baseball is because I wasn't really in tune with it. It didn't really get my attention. It wasn't as fast-paced as I wanted it to be. They moved me from the outfield to shortstop. I was just then learning the game, when the other kids had been learning it since they were 10, 12 or even before that.
"When they threw me at shortstop, everything was faster-paced. I had to know exactly what was going on. The shortstop leads the team. I played there for about two years. After that, I became a catcher."
This past season, with Russ and another player ahead of him on the depth chart at Northeast Texas, and with his offense a bit behind, the time came again for Turner to switch positions.
"I actually got signed to play in college as a catcher," he said. "At Christmas, I needed to make a position change. Pitching was my next best option. I didn't really have the bat. I could hit for average, but I couldn't put up the power numbers. I had a good arm behind the plate and an above-average pop-time back there. Defensively, I was OK. I was just lacking offensively." Almost immediately, Turner got his wake-up call on the mound.
"I remember walking up to our head coach (Andy Morgan), I was a redshirt this year, and said, 'Would it be too much to ask if I could get some innings in on the mound, or work in some bullpen (sessions)?'
"He was really supportive of it. He really pushed me along. I had an above-average fastball and above-average velocity. The OVL was the first time I'd actually thrown to hitters in a game situation." Entering the week, Turner had pitched in seven games this season, while fighting right arm soreness.
He's 1-0 with a 7.50 ERA, 13 strikeouts and 13 walks. "That was a minor setback," Turner said. "Making the transition from behind the plate to the mound was kind of hard. I was throwing a lot of innings and getting a lot of reps, and that's exactly what I needed. It just so happened that I went a little bit too hard. I don't know the proper way to recover, yet. I'm still working out the kinks."