Mitch Kottas, a projected outfielder/pitcher, officially signed to play baseball for Barton Community College on Wednesday morning at the Lawson-Biggs Field clubhouse.
Kottas, a 2012 graduate of Great Bend High School, was one of the prime-time players for the Panthers. His versatility was one of the things Barton head coach Mike Warren sought.
“Mitch is going to be able to come in and hopefully do a couple things for us,” Warren said. “That’s always good when you have somebody that can play more than one position and we’re happy to have him.
“We want him to play the outfield and pitching … a guy like him with experience that he has, pitching-wise, we want to try him on the mound, too.”
Kottas led the Panthers this past spring with a 5-0 record and a 1.91 earned run average in establishing himself as a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection. He also led GBHS in innings pitched (44) and strikeouts (23), and didn’t allow a home run all spring.
“We recruit athletes. You ask me, ‘Can he play in the outfield?’ He might play two or three different places in the outfield,” Warren said. “All of our outfielders play all three positions in the outfield, and you never know when one of them is going to go down.
“That’s what’s good about coming to a junior college and playing at this level. You get to find out where your best position is and what the best thing for you is at the next level, and that’s something that we’re charged with and it’s our job to figure it out.”
Kottas had a penchant for big hits with runners in scoring position for the Panthers. He batted a modest .273 while driving in 14 runs from the heart of the GBHS batting order.
“With runners on, you change your mentality a little bit at the plate,” Kottas said. “When there’s no one on, you sometimes try to do too much and that’s what hurts you a lot.
“When there’s runners on, you feel like you need to do it and drive them in. It helps a lot, it does.”
On Tuesday night, Kottas, who plays for the Class AAA American Legion Great Bend Chiefs, left the mound after four-plus innings against Dodge City because of an ailing pitching arm.
Kottas said he is hoping to pitch this coming Monday when the zone tournament takes place in Hays, and Warren said he will ease him on the mound during fall baseball at Barton.
“Right now, he has got a little bit of an injury to his shoulder and I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Warren said. “Nothing against (Chiefs head coach and former Barton player) Mike Stettinger. They’re short on pitchers, and I just think it’s just a little bit of overuse.
“Maybe tendinitis. Sounds something like that, so we’re going to wait until he’s healthy.”
Kottas, the cerebral type who carried a 3.5 grade point average at GBHS, will also be a student ambassador at Barton. He will be receiving aid via an academic/baseball scholarship.
“I don’t like the term ‘scholarship player, non-scholarship player.’ I just don’t like it,” Warren deadpanned. “I hate that, probably because we’ve had guys that have come here not on a scholarship and they played professional baseball in the past. They’ve been that good.
“It has nothing to do with the ability. It has more to do with our ability to be able get out and get more players. I applaud Mitch for that because he’s not selfish and he understands the situation.”
Barton’s baseball program is currently allotted 24 scholarship players.
“With the number of scholarships we have, we depend on players like Mitch that have high GPAs (from high school) and are eligible for academic scholarships,” said Warren, who is entering his 29th season at Barton. “In some cases, if they have a baseball scholarship and an academic scholarship, they have to have a 3.5 GPA out of high school and have to maintain that 3.5 GPA to receive that academic scholarship.
“Plus he’s a student ambassador. He’s going to get money for that. He’s also going to get some money because his Mom, Kathy, is an employee here (at Barton). With only 24 scholarships, we obviously can’t play with 24 players. That’s just not enough for us.”
Kottas is one that is getting virtually everything paid for, with the exception of his residential situation.
“It’s not going to cost him anything to go to school here, unless he lives in the dorms,” Warren said, “and I’m sure his parents are going to push him out and kick him out to live in the dorms.
“And, I’m sure the feeling is mutual. I’m sure his sister (Morgan) is probably looking forward to doing her own thing at home. From a money standpoint and a scholarship standpoint, I think we get too hung up on that. Mitch is here as a baseball player and a student and that’s the bottom line.”
Kottas, who was the starting quarterback his senior year at GBHS, was offered a dual scholarship as a baseball/football player at Dodge City Community College.
But he chose Barton in a landslide.
“I’ve always come out and watched games and known the staff for a while, coming to camps,” Kottas said of BCC. “I’ve always liked the atmosphere here, and I felt like it was the place to be.
“It was between here and Dodge City. I thought about it and I really had no passion for football. I lost my passion playing in high school, and I just saw all of my passion was in baseball. I could see myself playing baseball and not playing football any longer.”
Kottas added that he will be pursuing a career in sports administration.
“I would like to be a coach or be an athletic director or something like that,” he said.
Kottas, whose father, Pat, played baseball at Hutchinson Community College in the early 1980s, is the second player from GBHS to sign with Barton for the 2012-13 term. Longtime teammate and infielder Jace Bowman signed to play for the Cougars last month.
“Those two guys were the catalysts on the high school team and are right now with the American Legion team, so we’re pretty happy about that,” Warren said.