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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Dodgers draft DeWitt

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston Bulldog All-American Blake DeWitt
SIKESTON - Blake DeWitt didn't have to wait long to hear his name called in the Major League Baseball 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

With the 28th pick in the first round the Los Angeles Dodgers selected DeWitt, the Sikeston High School All-American who helped lead the Bulldogs to three final fours in his four years.

DeWitt, 18, was taken after the Dodgers selected fellow Missourian Scott Elbert, a left-handed pitcher from Seneca High School.

The Dodgers had the 28th pick from the New York Yankees, who surrendered it as compensation for signing Dodgers free agent reliever Paul Quantrill.

DeWitt, who was watching the draft in Albuquerque (N.M.) -- the site of the Baseball All-American Game -- said it was a dream come true.

"I was shaking -- I had Coach (Kevin) Self and my family sitting there," said DeWitt. "It was just a lot of fun. It was unbelievable. We had heard rumors of where I was going but you never know until that day," said DeWitt. "That's a team that I've been in contact with and that I'm very happy with. It couldn't happen with a better team. I just love the Dodgers and I'm glad it was them. It's a dream come true."

Even better for DeWitt is that he and Elbert are good friends that have played together during the summer.

"I actually will get to play with two friends in addition to Scott," said DeWitt. "I had a friend last year, Lucas May, that signed with the Dodgers. From day one I can remember talking with my dad and saying, 'hey it would be kind of neat if Scott and I were drafted and got to play on the same team.' We were like, 'there's almost no chance of that happening.' Somehow, it worked out today."

DeWitt, alongside friends and family in Albuquerque, were watching the draft on a big screen TV with many other top prospects. He said he actually found out that he was going to be taken in the first round prior to the news coming across the wire.

"We were watching the draft and we saw (Elbert) get picked by the Dodgers at 17," said DeWitt. "A few picks later (Elbert) had called and he said he thought the Dodgers had taken me at 28. Not a minute later, the Dodgers beeped in on my phone while I was talking to him and said they had picked me 28th overall. It was exciting."

The 6-foot, 175-pound DeWitt batted .548 with 14 home runs, 50 RBIs and 11 stolen bases this season for Sikeston. He also had 12 doubles, two triples and scored 51 runs.

On the mound he went 7-1 with a 1.47 ERA. He was 27-1 in his high school career, losing his only game in the Class 3 state semifinals last week to eventual champion Ozark.

"Blake's got all the tools -- he can run, he's got good hands, he's got a good arm, and a great bat obviously," said Self. "He's got the grades, he's top 10 percent in his class. He's got it all. All those things combined put a higher market value on him. When Baseball America puts you as the No. 1 pure hitter in high school in America, well that's a pretty big honor and teams are going to take notice of that. That probably also propelled him in the draft."

DeWitt was rated as the 65th best amateur player --

college and high school -- in the country by Baseball America magazine and he was the second best prospect in Missouri, behind Elbert at No. 12.

"With DeWitt, we got our bat," said Dodgers amateur scouting director Logan White. "Everybody's wanted us to get a bat, we've been trying, and this kid has a sweet stroke. Our staff felt he was too good a hitter to pass up. His swing is a lot like Loney's, he can drive to all fields and he's developing pull power. He's been a shortstop but he could wind up at third base. We've talked to the family and we are very hopeful to get something done."

As a result of being drafted, the Dodgers asked DeWitt not to play in the All-American Game, a standard request of players picked high in the draft.

But DeWitt wasn't too beaten up about it.

"I'm not really disappointed --sure I wanted to play, but this day couldn't be any better," said DeWitt. "There are some unbelievable players here and just to be able to watch them is not going to be too bad of a deal."

DeWitt also said that he won't be attending Georgia Tech, a school that he signed with last fall.

"They're a great school and if I had to do it over I wouldn't pick another school besides them," said DeWitt. "They are the best. It's unreal how much of a class act those guys are down there. But another opportunity arose and I don't think I'm going to be able to pass it up."

DeWitt projects as either a third baseman or a second baseman, instead of his normal shortstop position in high school. He did play two years of third base his freshman and sophomore year.

"I think they're going to leave me at short for as many years as I can play it just to keep my footwork up and then move," said DeWitt. "But I hope I can stay at short for as long as I can, although wherever their plans are for me I'll be happy."

So what's next for DeWitt?

He said that he will sign a contract soon and will report to the Dodgers' spring training home in Vero Beach (Fla.). "I'm not trying to ask for a lot of money or anything," said DeWitt. "I'm just going to get a fair deal and be happy to be a Dodger.

"This is something I've been working for my whole life. It seems like it's paid off, but I'm not too satisfied right now because next week I'm going to have to get out and start playing again. My dream is to get to the big leagues and not just get drafted. This is just getting me one step closer."

DeWitt said teams that expressed the most interest in addition to the Dodgers were the Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins.

"I really didn't care who it was but I'm glad it was the Dodgers," said DeWitt. "I got to know Mitch Webster, the area scout for them. He's a former big leaguer himself and maybe he can teach me some more stuff when I get to Vero Beach."

The Dodgers told DeWitt that if Elbert wasn't available at No. 17 then DeWitt was their man.

"It probably worked out even better because both of them know each other really well and they get along real well," said Self. "It's a tremendous thing. Not just in his life, but for the whole City of Sikeston.

"This has never happened. (Longtime Dodger manager) Tommy Lasorda even called Blake tonight and welcomed him to the Dodger family. He's going to get to meet a lot of influential people in baseball because of where he went in the draft. All the things that he's done -- all the work he's put in has paid off."