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Tom Verducci
June 16, 1997
Oft-injured Kevin Mitchell loves toys and clubhouse high jinks, but the former MVP is also a guardian angel—and more
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June 16, 1997

Livin' Large

Oft-injured Kevin Mitchell loves toys and clubhouse high jinks, but the former MVP is also a guardian angel—and more

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Mitchell's most difficult decision may have been deciding which vehicle to pick her up in. Mitchell owned (another deep breath here, please) 11 all-terrain vehicles, two dune buggies, two go-karts, two Jet Skis, a 40-foot RV, two one-ton pickup trucks, two utility trailers, the Humvee, a Ferrari Testarossa, a Porsche, a BMW 740, a Mercedes 560 SEL, a '64 Chevy convertible and a '75 Caprice Classic low-rider convertible. "When I wake up in the morning," he says, "I have to decide which one I want to drive. It depends how I feel. If it's a real nice day, I may take one of the convertibles."

Most of Mitchell's vehicles—or "buckets," in Mitchspeak—are customized, be it with intricate paint jobs, supercharged engines or assorted gadgetry. Two of his vehicles have no door handles; the doors pop open only by remote control. "I've got to do something to a car," he says. "I don't care if it's a Yugo, I've got to fix it up. Put in curtains and pillows or something."

In '93 when he returned home for a series in San Diego, he purchased $2,800 worth of tickets. He doled them out to family, friends and some especially helpful employees of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. "My registrations come up during the season," he explained. "I don't have time to wait in line." He later was told to expect no such courtesies thereafter. "I guess some people got in trouble," he says.

Nothing thrills him more than riding one of his all-terrain vehicles at 70 mph over desert sand dunes in the pitch-black of a moonless night. "Stress-free," he says. How's that? "No phones, no pagers, no nothing." That's why his outfielder's glove is imprinted with his nickname: SAND MAN.

It turns out that Mr. Sand Man could use a wake-up call once in a while. In '93 and '94 he was fined for showing up late for work after the All-Star break, once coming to blows with Reds manager Davey Johnson after he finally did arrive. "He's still a boy at heart," says Johnson, who was also Mitchell's manager with the Mets and is now the Baltimore Orioles' skipper. "He still loves his toys. I tell him, 'Kevin, you have the rest of your life to play with toys, but your baseball career only lasts so long.' What I wanted to impress upon him was, Kevin, don't put on too much weight, because if you do, it will take a toll on your legs. Make a few sacrifices now and give yourself four or five good years, then go play."

In the past seven years Mitchell has earned $20 million while playing in barely more than half of his teams' games. "Remember," he says, "I own a hair salon and apartments. I save real well, but if I want something, I'll get it."

What he's got is a deep wardrobe. Cincinnati catchers Joe Oliver and Ed Taubensee showed up one day in the clubhouse in '94 wearing nearly identical outfits: black polo shirts, faded jeans and hightop white sneakers. "Them guys are goobers, man," Mitchell said. "That would never happen with me." The next day Mitchell arrived in a shocking lime silk shirt, matching pants and black leather ankle boots with steel rivets. No teammate strolled in wearing the same ensemble.

Mitchell scared himself Once when he hit a line drive that nearly jelled Florida Marlins pitcher Chris Hammond. "I'm like, Duck, fool!" Mitchell says. "I don 7 need a murder charge."

Kevin Mitchell is a close friend of trouble. In 1991, while playing for the Giants, he left a ticket at Candlestick Park for a friend from his San Diego hood. As the man picked up his ticket, he was arrested in connection with the murder of a police officer. The man served time in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and is still friends with Mitchell.

"Lots of my friends who get out or need help, I'll get them a bucket," Mitchell says. "If I give something to my homeboys, I don't ask for anything in return."

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