Provencher can, and will, play anywhere on field for Mesa
Mesa State College senior Mike Provencher carries three bags with him to the ballpark for games.
One is slung over one shoulder, another is on his back and a third is in his hand.
He needs all three to carry all of his baseball equipment, which includes five different fielding gloves and catcher’s gear, plus his snacks.
A guy burns a lot of energy playing every position on the field.
“It starts with a big bag, that’s for sure,” Provencher said.
The third-team All-American shortstop from El Paso, Texas, comes to the park not sure what position he’ll play that day. It could be shortstop, third base, somewhere in the outfield or he could even be behind the plate.
The RMAC preseason player of the year has played several positions since Little League.
“My dad made me pretty much,” Provencher joked. “No, he didn’t really make me, but he made it a point to keep your options open. Obviously, the more positions you can play the more opportunities you have.
“I’m fortunate to have the ability to transfer my abilities to different spots.”
Provencher played shortstop and third base most of his youth, but once he was in high school, he primarily played shortstop.
That got him an opportunity to play for a summer team on the Front Range after his senior year.
There, Mesa State bench coach Steve Woytek noticed him and invited him to Grand Junction for a tryout, and Provencher signed a letter of intent with the Mavs. He made an immediate impact, starting 19 games as a freshman in 2006, leading the team in triples.
“When we recruited him, he was a shortstop and center fielder,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “Overall, he’s an athlete. We can play him at first as well. He’s not the large target you’d like over there, but you could do it. He came and worked out for us. We liked his arm strength, running speed and pop in the bat.”
When Provencher arrived at Mesa State, everything changed.
He is listed as an infielder, but he’s played in the outfield, shortstop and third base. Last year, he even pitched an inning.
This fall, he learned how to catch and he loves it.
“Catcher is one of my favorites, but I’m not that good at it,” Provencher said. “I like being able to control the game and being involved in every pitch. I’ve never really played catcher before, but once I started trying to figure it out during scrimmages, you develop a new respect for catchers and how much is going through their mind at one time.
“Playing with guys like Blaine (Bernades) and Grant (Vickers) and seeing how calm they are behind the plate, and when I get back there, everything is going 800 miles per hour.”
Provencher won’t likely see much time behind the plate in games. But after an All-American season at shortstop, he won’t even start regularly there, either.
That’s because the Mavericks have another returning All-American shortstop, Matt Bodenchuk. The senior from Boulder was a first-team All-American in 2007 but missed last season after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
“It’s a unique problem, but it’s a good problem,” Hanks said. “Fortunately, both guys can play multiple positions. We’ll play Mike in the outfield as we did at Grand Canyon. We’ll play him at short. He can play third. We’ve trained him at catcher, but I don’t know how much we’ll do that.
“Bodenchuk, we played him a game at first (last weekend). He can play third. We could put him in the outfield too, but we probably won’t. The important thing is to create a scenario where we have both their bats in the lineup.”
Bodenchuk and Provencher know they will usually be in the lineup, but not always at shortstop.
“A lot of people ask me about me and Mikey’s relationship,” Bodenchuk said. “We’re like best friends on the field. Hanks never told him (shortstop) is his spot or me it’s my spot.
“We push each other and it makes us better. When you see Mikey out there throwing 93 (mph) across the diamond, it makes you perform at the highest level.”