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Ex-Mitchell star plays in Cape Cod All-Star Game


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— Connor Hale is a long way from home.

That’s a good thing.

The 2011 Mitchell High graduate is playing, and succeeding, in the Cape Cod Baseball League, enough so that he landed himself a spot in the league’s All-Star Game last Sunday in Bourne, Massachusetts. Hale, 21, has come a long way from being a lightly recruited infielder for the Mustangs.

“I never imagined this,” said Hale, who is batting .301 with 24 RBIs, 40 hits and four home runs for the Falmouth Commodores. “I’m a long way from Trinity, but things have worked out perfectly. I’m very happy to try to do my best to keep up the legacy of players coming out of Mitchell.”

From Mitchell, where he hit .505 with 37 RBIs and six homers as a senior, Hale played two years for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, where he was Suncoast Conference Player of the Year in 2013 after batting .366 with 67 RBIs. That drew the attention of Louisiana State University, and he hit .306 with 38 runs, 11 doubles, a triple, four homers and 29 RBIs in 2014.

Before heading to Baton Rouge, Hale went to Cape Cod to play for Falmouth as a super-utility infielder while living with a host family and working a part-time job.

“Having a kid like that in this league is valuable,” Commodores assistant coach Brad Stoll said, “because you can float him around the infield and keep him in the lineup. He is by far the most consistent player we have. Not flashy, but steady. He’s a great teammate and always seems to come up clutch in the RBI situations.”

To the Commodores’ surprise, Hale wasn’t taken in June’s draft, so before his senior season at LSU, Hale opted for another season on the Cape.

“We were just floored he came back this summer, because we figured he’d be drafted,” Stoll said. “We were elated as a coaching staff to have him back.”

Hale has never been considered a power hitter, even though he bats cleanup for the Commodores. Hale drives in runs as a contact hitter, as he did when he played at Mitchell.

“He’s always had the ability to crush the ball and make contact,” Mustangs coach Scot Wilcox said. “I never doubted his ability to hit at any level. I’m not surprised by how well he’s doing, though I wasn’t sure about LSU for him, but look at him now.”

“I never frown” on someone going to a junior college, Wilcox said. “Good things can happen after that — you can get drafted, play in Cape Cod, so look at Connor and what he’s doing. He’s good to show kids I have later on that aren’t getting recruited heavily. … I can only imagine what it’s like to play in the Cape Cod League, but it doesn’t get much better than that, because he’s facing some of the best pitching in the country and hitting them.”

Hale is hitting with a wooden bat, unlike the aluminum ones he used at LSU. Using a wooden bat, and taking road trips on a small yellow school bus, is just more preparation for the majors, as Hale looks to be drafted next summer.

“This prepares you for the bigs, because every kid here is the best from their school,” Hale said. “You’re playing with and against the best of the best.”

Hale has come a long way, from playing on small fields in Trinity and Bradenton, to now playing in front of thousands of fans a year at LSU. But as he plays on the small fields in Cape Cod in front of dozens of scouts a night, he’s at home. For now.

“My main focus, after winning here in Falmouth, is winning a national championship at LSU,” Hale said. “I would love to be drafted, play minor-league ball, make the bigs — that’s any player’s dream, right?”

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