This NBA star grew up loving baseball due to Dad's job with Mets

June 17th, 2023
“My children mean the world to me,” Donovan Mitchell Sr. said about his son Donovan Jr. and his daughter Jordan.

NEW YORK -- Donovan Mitchell Sr., the Mets director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been in professional baseball since 1992. He started as a Minor League player with the Astros before becoming a Minor League coach and manager in the Mets organization.

For everything Mitchell has done in his career, he doesn’t put that ahead of his No. 1 job -- proud father of two well-accomplished kids.

Donovan Jr. (or Don as his father calls him) is a four-time All-Star in the NBA. He was the Cavaliers’ leading scorer this past season, averaging 28.3 points per game. Daughter Jordan is currently attending American University and is one of the school’s best players in Lacrosse. In fact, in May, Jordan was named to the Patriot League All-League Second team as a defender.

“My children mean the world to me,” Mitchell Sr. said. “They are the reason I do what I do. They are my driving force that keeps me going every day. It has been a pleasure watching them grow, watching them develop into the two young adults that they are.”

Jordan is not into baseball, but Junior loves the sport. It meant a lot to Senior to have Junior around him when he was working in the Mets Minor League system. Junior said he would not be the professional that he is now if not for his father exposing him to the baseball players.

“I appreciate that experience. He took me everywhere he went. To see that from this level, I brought it to my profession,” Junior said.

While Dad was busy preparing for the game, Junior was always in the clubhouse, becoming friendly with players such as Scott Kazmir and Josh Thole. Junior was even a bat boy for the Kingsport Mets, who at that time were the club’s Rookie League team.

And last year, the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones had a Donovan Mitchell bobblehead, which depicted him in a Cyclones uniform with a basketball under his foot.

“He was living a professional life at the age of nine and 10 before he became a professional,” Senior said. “He really enjoyed being around the players. He actually felt he was a part of the team. He had his own uniform. He would get dressed in the coaches locker room. He would be in the locker room and talk with guys and hang out with the guys. When the guys would go out and stretch, he would stretch with them and throw with them. They took them under their wing. He was like a little brother, which I thought was cool.”

Donovan Mitchell Jr. was the Cavaliers' leading scorer during the 2022-23 season.

In 2000, Mitchell Sr.’s profession opened up an unforgettable opportunity for his 4-year-old son -- attending the World Series between the Mets and Yankees. Junior also attended the NL Championship Series between the Mets and Cardinals.

“I was like a kid in a candy store,” Junior said. “You have your favorite players in your favorite sport. You are a die-hard Mets fan. Obviously seeing those guys on a daily basis, seeing them in the non-professional environment, that’s what was special.

“Being able to see them chatting it up in the locker room -- they are all taking the time to talk to me. That means a lot and that kind of impacts the way I go about being a pro. At the end of the day, that’s what I was seeing. David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Pedro Martinez took the time out to hang around me. To be able to do that with kids now is exciting.”

Junior had so much fun in the clubhouse that he thought about following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a professional baseball player. However, by his sophomore year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., Junior broke his wrist and decided to focus on basketball. Senior was not upset by his son’s decision.

“He asked me, would I be upset if he stopped playing baseball? I told him, no,” Senior remembered. “I wanted him to do what was going to make him happy. He was being heavily recruited at that time by a few schools and wanted to focus on basketball and not take a chance in hurting himself in baseball.”

Today, Donovan Jr. is currently one of the best in his sport.

“You have been playing baseball your whole life. For me to make that switch wasn’t the easiest thing,” he said. “As a kid, you wanted to see your dreams [come true]. For my parents to say, ‘pursue your dreams’ is pretty special.”

Junior hasn’t forgotten his baseball roots. He was at Citi Field this past Tuesday catching the first pitch from Rick Pitino, the new head coach for St. John’s University. Junior played for Pitino when both were at Louisville.

The two may have a close relationship, but it was Senior who guided him in the right direction.

“With the support of my mother and father, [me and my sister] were able to do what we wanted to do," Junior said. "You want your parents to be happy with it. I’m forever grateful for that."