EVANSTON -- Prior to this winter, Jack Mitchell had been a two-sport athlete at Northwestern, playing kicker during football season while also serving as a starting outfielder on the baseball team. Mitchell has experienced his fair share of clutch moments while playing both sports. In football, he has kicked game-winning field goals to beat Notre Dame in 2014 as well as against Penn State this past season. In baseball, he drove in the Wildcats' game-winning run last season in a 1-0 win over Maryland and also hit a walk-off, pinch-hit single in 2014 against Chicago State. But now, Mitchell is giving up one of those sports in hopes of making more memories in the other.
Mitchell told Inside NU on Tuesday that he will not be playing on the baseball team this upcoming season.
Mitchell originally came to Northwestern to play baseball and has contributed in each of his three seasons. He played in 102 games during that span, making 73 starts. As a hitter, his career average was .230 and hit 6 total home runs (2 each season) and collected in 38 RBIs.
The decision to give up baseball was made gradually over time, Mitchell said. The junior from San Diego said that he wants to focus on his role as the football team's starting kicker this spring as he prepares to enter his final season for the Wildcats' football team.
"I decided to play football, kind of have an offseason, get the opportunity to put in the work to actually come back my senior year as best as possible," said Mitchell.
Mitchell took over the kicking duties full-time in 2014. Over the past two seasons, he has made 32 of his 44 field goal attempts, good enough for 72.7 percent with a career-long of 49 yards. Mitchell earned a football scholarship during the 2015 season.
With his departure from the baseball team, Mitchell says he will have more time this offseason to ramp up his training and improve his speed, explosiveness and consistency.
"I'll get a lot more kicking in for sure, and a lot of lifting especially on the legs because I'm not in season so I'll be able to do a lot more in that respect. For baseball in general, there's just a lot of traveling. You're playing at least three times a week, sometimes more. There's just not a lot of time to get in lifts and get stronger. You're just always kind of on the move."
Mitchell said he informed Northwestern's head baseball coach, Spencer Allen, of his decision in January. Allen is entering his first season as the Wildcats' head coach and although Mitchell never played for him in a game, Mitchell said that he thinks Allen is doing a great job taking over the program thus far (the Wildcats went 2-2 over the weekend, winning two games against Nevada in Arizona to open the season). And although he will not be on the team this season, Mitchell says he is excited to watch the Wildcats play as the season begins to pick up.
"There's definitely a new buzz with the new coaching staff and new stadium," he said. "Everyone's excited. It should be a really exciting season."
Mitchell added he has no regrets looking back on his baseball career playing for Northwestern.
"I had three great years," he said. "I wouldn't trade that for anything. I'll always look back happily on that time."
Northwestern, though, still has a two-sport athlete on its football roster as reserve quarterback Dan Kubiuk has walked-on to the Wildcats' baseball team. Kubiuk, a sophomore right-handed pitcher, made his debut against Nevada on Feb. 19.