When a baseball player starts peppering his conversation with Wall Street buzz words like "upside potential" and "downside risk," you may think he's paying more attention to his stocks than his stats. But for Bobby Mitchell, whose journal of his 1982 season with the Portland (Ore.) Beavers begins on page 74, it's merely the parlance of his other career as a stockbroker at Somers, Grove & Co., Inc. in Portland.
When Mitchell first got in touch with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED just over a year ago, he was neither a stockbroker nor a published writer; he was a minor-leaguer entering his seventh season. From his parents' home in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., he called Baseball Editor Larry Keith to ask if we'd be interested in considering a story he'd written. Keith told him to send it in. Two hours later, the manuscript, which had been carried to our offices by Mitchell, was on Keith's desk, and three hours after that, Mitchell had sold his first story. It ran as a FIRST PERSON feature in our March 15, 1982 issue and revealed Mitchell's thoughts about facing Fernando Valenzuela, who was making his winter-ball debut in December 1981 while Mitchell was playing for the Mazatlan Venidos.
Mitchell was still a Little Leaguer when, at age 12, he took his first plunge into the stock market. He invested in a mutual fund but quickly lost interest when he discovered that he didn't get to make any decisions about which stocks the fund invested in. He wanted a more active role.
And now he has one. He believes he got the job at Somers, Grove because he's a ballplayer. "There's a feeling in any business that when selling's involved, an athlete will be good at it," he says. "Athletes are competitive by nature. To be a good broker you have to believe you're the best. The same attitude is necessary in baseball."
But when Mitchell specifically compares playing ball to playing the market, the latter comes up short. "In baseball, it's a great feeling to have your mind and body working together to achieve something," he says. "In stocks, there are also big risks and the timing can be crucial, too. Being a broker gets my adrenaline going, but there's nothing physical about it."
Mitchell the writer bloomed a little later than Mitchell the broker and Mitchell the player. It all started with a journal he kept in high school for his English courses. He went on to the University of Richmond on a baseball scholarship—he played second base and hit .364 in his junior year—and majored in English.
Mitchell plans to continue all three of his careers this year. He has figured out that the best way he can service his brokerage accounts and still play baseball is to be traded from the Pittsburgh organization to Philadelphia's. Pittsburgh this winter moved its Triple A minor league team to Hawaii, and Philadelphia picked up the franchise in Portland. With minor league spring training starting this week, Mitchell is off to Bradenton, Fla. to join the Pittsburgh camp, where he'll be working out while trying to work out a deal.
Wherever he ends up playing, Mitchell is sure to excel at the triple play: stats to stocks to stories. There's a lot of upside potential in it.