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Ripken Baseball Coach Spotlight: Mitchell Whitner, Golden Spikes

By Ripken Baseball, 12/17/18, 4:15PM EST

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As the Golden Spikes continue to grow and prosper as an organization, Whitner continues to keep player growth at the center of his coaching philosophy.

Excellence is never an accident. That’s what Coach Mitchell Whitner preaches to his team everyday on the diamond. His team, the Golden Spikes (N.C.), strives to create a culture where development is always valued over competition.

“Sports offer something that nothing else can,” said Whitner, “The chance for kids to develop physical skills as well as personal values is truly an experience that only sports can provide.”

These development opportunities are what bring players from across North Carolina and parts of South Carolina to Waynesville, North Carolina to play for the Golden Spikes.

Whitner has coached baseball for 11 years and has spent the past three with the Golden Spikes. He got his start coaching as an assistant at his alma mater Wilkes Community College. In his last year coaching the team, they broke almost every single record in school history and finished the season nationally ranked in Division II baseball polls.

From there, Whitner had the opportunity to work as an assistant, and then as head coach, at Tuscola High School, where he graduated from years earlier. Three years ago, he helped found the Golden Spikes after he was approached by parents to see if he would be interested in starting a developmentally focused youth travel team.

“We started with just one team,” said Whitner, “Since then, the program has really grown to one of the best organizations in the region.”

Whitner says his biggest accomplishment has been getting the opportunity to see his players reach their personal goals. Two of his former players were recently drafted in the 2018 MLB Draft - Cal Raleigh selected by the Seattle Mariners and Mason Fox selected by the San Diego Padres.

“One of our team parents said ‘don’t prepare the road for the child, prepare the child for the road’ and that really stuck with me,” said Whitner. “I always try to equip my players with the necessary skills and mindset to be successful in reaching the goals they set for themselves.”

Though Whitner upholds that he will always value personal development over competition, the Golden Spikes have proven themselves fierce competitors. The team has competed at over 10 tournaments at The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge bringing home three tournament championships. Still, Whitner focuses more on what they learned from the experience than how they performed.

“The replica fields at The Ripken Experience were really awesome,” said Whitner. “My players loved learning about the history and professional progression of the game through the fields they were playing on.”

As the Golden Spikes continue to grow and prosper as an organization, Whitner continues to keep player growth at the center of his coaching philosophy.

“Change is inevitable, but growth is optional. It is my job to give my players the tools and skills they need to grow.”