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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Sikeston standout signs contract with the Dodgers

Sunday, June 13, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston's Blake DeWitt shakes hands with Los Angeles Dodgers scout Mitech Webster.
SIKESTON - Sikeston High School baseball All-American Blake DeWitt officially became a Los Angeles Dodger on Friday afternoon when he signed a six-year contract with the storied franchise.

DeWitt, who was drafted by the Dodgers with the 28th pick in the first round, received a signing bonus of $1.2 million and he will receive the base minor league salary set by Major League Baseball.

Also involved in the contract is the college scholarship plan, designed to pay for DeWitt's higher education.

"It feels good," said DeWitt. "I was so ready to get this over with -- the whole contract thing and get it out of the way. I'm ready to get out there and play and show people what I've got."

Said father Mike DeWitt, "It's a thrilling moment for all of us. All along he's been willing to go and work at this game. He's the one that wanted to do it, not us. He wanted to make it happen."

The signing, originally planned to be held at the DeWitt residence, had to be moved to the Sikeston High School cafeteria to accommodate the large numbers of friends and family.

A stage was setup for DeWitt's family, coaches and Mitch Webster, the midwest area scout for the Dodgers.

DeWitt donned an L.A. Dodger cap and Webster's old No. 11 Dodger uniform.

Webster, who spent five of his 11 1/2 major league seasons with the Dodgers, said the community support around DeWitt is extraordinary.

"This community is outstanding," said Webster. "They showed me that especially in the state tournament when they got beat the first day and it was just still a very good clean crowd. I don't see this kind of support too often at all. This is a just a neat setup."

DeWitt and his family came to know Webster well during this past year. So well that they had become close friends.

"We went out to eat with him a few times and he's a great guy," said DeWitt. "He represents the Dodgers organization well. I got to know him good, he's a good friend and I couldn't ask for a better club."

Webster, who also scouted and signed Seneca (Mo.) High School pitcher Scott Elbert with the 17th pick, got a little emotional during Monday's draft when the Dodgers plucked DeWitt at No. 28.

"You can't believe how nervous I was about losing Blake," said Webster. "Elbert was ahead of him and we were going to take him ahead of Blake, but that was it. I was so excited to get Scotty but then I thought we might lose Blake. Minnesota had three picks in there in between our two picks, and then when they picked their third guy I thought to myself, 'man, I'm going to get him.' When we got him, I almost cried. I think I might have set a record, two first round guys in the same year."

Mike DeWitt said they had a feeling all along that the Dodgers were the team to beat for his son.

"Every time we looked up, every game Sikeston played, we'd see Mitch Webster," he said. "We just had a feeling that every time we'd see Mitch, the Dodgers really wanted him. Twenty-nine of the 30 teams asked about him. But the Dodgers, Red Sox and Royals were the ones that were around all the time."

Webster said he had known about DeWitt since his sophomore year. And like he had done numerous scouts around the country, he wowed them with his bat.

"He can hit," said Webster. "He can flat hit, but he's going to be a good third baseman I think. You never know, he may go back to short or end up at second. But overall, his bat is the carrying tool for him. He really surprised me a little bit with his power. I didn't know he had that kind of power right now. He's going to have average power in the big leagues I think, which rolls him out as an everyday third baseman."

Webster also said teams look well beyond an athlete's performance on the field, as they send cross checkers to examine a player's character and makeup.

"He passes those tests with flying colors," said Webster. "You talk about a top drawer kid, a smart kid, a great worker, very humble and a tremendous supportive family and community. I was telling somebody that he's the kind of player that you don't need to see a whole lot because that's how good he is. But you always want to check on their makeup and he passed that test easily."

Another test DeWitt will have to pass is a position change at the professional level. He played shortstop the last two years for the Bulldogs and will most likely be shifted to third base with the Dodgers.

"He's got to learn how to play third as good as he can," said Webster. "He's got to smooth out his footwork and learn how to make the slow-roller bunt plays. But really just play and do what he can do. He could move over to second, but I don't think that's in the near future.

"Most high school guys no matter where they're picked, it takes a while for them to adjust. Baseball's a very hard game and now he's going to be seeing guys on the mound all the time that are the absolute best in the country. We just need to be patient with what he's doing in the early years."

With the signing, DeWitt had to turn down his scholarship offer from Division I powerhouse Georgia Tech.

Mike DeWitt said the school handled the news with class.

"Georgia Tech was great about this whole thing," he said. "They felt like he was a big-time recruit and Blake wanted that scholarship. He knew if the draft didn't work out that he was going to Georgia Tech. He shut the door on the third and fourth rounds and he let everybody know up front that that's what it was going to take to sign him. It was an opportunity that he couldn't pass up."

After the ceremony, an all-smiles DeWitt posed for photos with his fans and friends that had supported him through the years.

"I didn't really expect this, but it shows what this community is like," he said. "Everybody supports everybody. I'll always remember Sikeston. I'll always be back here."