Oregon baseball’s Mitchell Tolman uses fiery antics to move on from mistakes

Oregon infielder Mitchell Tolman (37) takes a strike during the bottom of the second inning. The Oregon Ducks host the Ohio State Buckeyes at PK Park on March 9, 2014. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Oregon infielder Mitchell Tolman (37) takes a strike during the bottom of the second inning. The Oregon Ducks host the Ohio State Buckeyes at PK Park on March 9, 2014. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Posted by Victor Flores on Sunday, Apr. 27 at 9:00 pm.

Any Oregon baseball spectator can see when Mitchell Tolman messes up. Often, after the third baseman makes an inexcusable mistake — at least in his eyes — heated words spew from his mouth as he angrily tosses his equipment. The sophomore’s antics aren’t over-the-top, but his anger hardly ever remains subdued.

“Stuff will sit with me for a while, so I need something to just release my anger,”  Tolman said.

Tolman led the Ducks in batting average (.345) this season and sat second in both on-base percentage (.467) and slugging percentage (.490) through Saturday. But these numbers don’t quell his temper.

“The better I do, I feel, the more frustrated I get sometimes,” Tolman said.

Angry behavior isn’t new to Tolman, and it has created issues with current and former coaches. While he’ll likely never eliminate his temper, he has found ways to channel it and quickly move on.

Tolman said his volatile behavior comes from his family.

“My brother, who’s 14 years old, will text me all the time being like, ‘Hey you had a good day but I did better than you today,’” Tolman said.

Tolman’s brother, Erik, isn’t the only family member who stokes Tolman’s fire. Oregon hitting coach, Mark Wasikowski, immediately pointed to Tolman’s “fiery” mother, Linda, as a reason for Tolman’s attitude.

Tolman agreed, saying Linda can be temperamental at times. She did, however, help him get through one of his most trying times, when frustration reached a boiling point.

Tolman had committed to Cal State Fullerton when he was a sophomore at El Toro High School (Lake Forest, California), but the commitment evaporated when Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano left for Tennessee before Tolman’s senior season. When spring 2012 arrived, Tolman had no idea where he’d play college ball.

“It was a frustrating time for me,” Tolman said. “I remember doing really bad in one particular series, and my coach just sat me for one of the games because I acted out.”

Tolman’s coach, Mike Gonzales, has no tolerance for angry antics and has not been afraid to bench anyone — from stars like Tolman to fringe starters.

“I hear it all the time: He’s an emotional guy and he throws his helmet because he cares,” Gonzales said. “No, that’s due to immaturity.”

Gonzales wasn’t referring to Tolman, specifically, but Tolman said his temper was much worse in high school than it is now — especially during that frustrating period. Tolman needed a calming presence at that time, and he got it from an unlikely source — his mother.

“Whether this is your last year of baseball or not, you just have to have fun,” Tolman remembers Linda telling him.

Tolman, of course, found a college destination and has shined in both seasons for the Ducks. While he still displays a temper, Tolman said he has calmed down. Plus, he believes letting his anger out can be therapeutic.

“Some people throw or yell to get it out faster,” Oregon second baseman Aaron Payne said. “It’s better than him hanging on to it and it affecting him down the road.”

Tolman will always have moments where he wants to yell or throw something, but he knows he can’t let mistakes linger.

“Baseball is not a perfectionist sport,” he said.

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