When Hawks first baseman Brian Mundell looked around his infield Thursday, he saw three veteran professionals at their positions.
But Mundell made his ninth appearance as a pro wearing a first baseman’s mitt Thursday, and only his 24th at the position since his junior year of high school.
The move is another position change for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound slugger the Rockies picked in the seventh round in June’s draft out of Cal Poly. And it’s one designed as permanent for the college designated hitter as he moves his way up the National League affiliate’s ladder.
“I played my sophomore and junior year in high school at first base. So it’s not something that is completely new,” Mundell said. “But it’s definitely at a higher level. There is definitely a transition to be done and some work to do.”
Cal Poly recruited Mundell out of Valencia, Calif., as a catcher. But he underwent Tommy John surgery after his freshman season, constricting him to designated hitting duties as a sophomore. He then added 15 pounds of muscle, limiting his agility and muscle and pushing him to first base as a junior. But he injured his hamstring while stretching for a throw early in this spring, missing three weeks and coming back solely as a designated hitter.
As a member of the National League, the Rockies can’t use a designated hitter. But Mundell’s power (20 career home runs in college) convinced Colorado to take a chance on him and try to continue his transition to first base.
Mundell hasn’t taken off at the plate yet, entering Thursday hitting .258 with one home run and three RBIs in nine games. But Hawks manager Frank Gonzales thinks it’s only a matter of time.
“There is a bat there for sure,” Gonzales said. “I think he’s going to hit at this level. But a definite part of his plan is to become a really solid defensive first baseman. I don’t know if he is a Gold Glove first baseman, but I’d like to see a nice solid first baseman to complement his ability to hit. And he’s going to hit with power in the future. He’s got a lot of strength.”
Gonzales said Mundell has impressed him with his work ethic at first base, putting in extra time scooping throws out the dirt and developing the footwork necessary to put him in the right place to make those scoops.
Mundell knows he’d could fall back on his bat as a prospect in an American League organization. But he said he prefers playing in the field because it forces him to move on from his last at-bat, no matter how well or poorly it went.
“It’s good for me because it makes me a better hitter, to be honest,” Mundell said. “DH-ing, you can have a bad at-bat and then you have to sit around and think about it for two more innings. And then you come back up and hit again.
“At first base, whatever happens from hitting — from success to failure — you have to clear it and go and play the field and have a focused mind.”