Everyone in the baseball industry-hopefully-knows the name Bobby Witt Jr. (Colleyville Heritage HS, TX). The son of former major leaguer Bobby Witt, the Oklahoma recruit has been a fixture on the summer showcase circuit the last few years, won a gold medal with Team USA in December and is the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. It's the kind of profile that, when it steps up to the plate during the high school season, you do what you can to avoid damage-pitch around him, intentionally walk him. Anything but give him a pitch to hit. With a .554 average, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 17 walks and just seven strikeouts through 27 games, it seems he is seeing pitches to hit, and he's not missing.
Don't be mistaken, Witt Jr. is immensely talented, but it's hard for any prospect to hit for such a high average, especially in a state with the depth of talent like Texas. That, in part, may be a reason he is having such a huge year. If opposing pitchers avoid Witt Jr., another big bat just steps in the box. The Panthers have seven other Division I prospects on the roster, providing protection for, well, everybody.
"The team is coming together, everyone is buying in," Witt Jr. said. "We all have the same goal of winning the state championship this year. Our lineup one through nine is pretty amazing. And just having our pitchers go out there, throwing strikes and doing their thing, it's good too."
A state championship in Texas is a gauntlet run, with many teams having loaded lineups and Division I rotations, but Colleyville Heritage is proving itself, with a 26-1 record. Keep this up and Witt Jr. likes their chances.
"I think it's really just keep hitting," he said. "If we keep hitting, and I don't think any team in Texas or in the country, can beat us with our lineup. Our pitchers are throwing strikes and our defense is solid too, having seven D-I commits out there. It's pretty special to have that. Just going out there, having fun, staying focused, playing hard and taking it pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat, game by game-not focusing on the state tournament right now. We're focusing on tomorrow and then the next week, and then the week after that."
This is not a new experience for Witt Jr., playing for a deep team and tearing through the competition. With the 18U National Team at the Pan Am Championships, he was named MVP after hitting .576 with three home runs and 18 RBIs, contributing to the team's .407/.517/.683 line. As usual, that roster was loaded with future first-round picks and major league talent.
"Being able to play with those guys and going out to Panama and do what we did," Witt Jr. said. "The coaching staff was incredible. All the teammates I had were incredible. We created a brotherhood down there and I still keep in touch with those guys. There is no other experience-I'll remember that for the rest of my life. Knowing that I got to represent our country, it was an honor and really taking that to the field at Colleyville, whether it's during the National Anthem, knowing just wow, I really got to represent USA and respecting the game more."
They had the talent to do it, but the environment is never easy, teenagers traveling to a foreign country-some for the first time in their lives-and playing in conditions they're not typically used to. Experiencing that was invaluable for Witt Jr. and his teammates.
"The teammates, the bond we had," he said. "We were staying in places, some of the hotels had no air conditioning, bugs in our beds. We had to sleep in our sweat suits. We really came together and it didn't faze us."
Few get the Team USA experience, but even fewer have a major league resource under the same roof and others in the family. Bobby Witt Sr. played 16 seasons in the big leagues.
"It's a really good resource to have because he's done what I want to do and he did it successfully," Witt Jr. said. "Whether it's me having questions or going through a tough time, picking his mind to see what he did when he played-even though he was a pitcher and I'm a position player-he still had to go through that mental side."
And because of the opposite positions, it makes for some fun duels in family batting practice.
"I think everytime nowawadays, he's leaving out everything out there," Witt Jr. said. "Every once in a while, he'll try to mix in a slider or something. I think I've got him now. He probably had me back then, but I think I'm getting to him now."
And it's not just a father-son thing. Witt Jr. has three older sisters, all of whom were athletes, as well as his mother. And those sisters have significant others in the game-two of them played in the big leagues and one is currently in the Dodgers organization.
All that support is big for Witt Jr., but he knows nothing-not a state championship, getting drafted or making the big leagues-will just be handed out.
"I know there are guys working, trying to get better and there's a target on everyone out there," he said. "There's always another guy working. I feel like I just need to keep working to maintain what I have and just get better-whether it's at the five tools, the mental side or getting stronger, eating better, sleeping better. Just doing all those things to try to gain things for on-the-field play."
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