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Monday, July 28, 2014

DeWitt heading for Florida

Sunday, March 6, 2005

(Photo)
Former Sikeston High School All-American Blake DeWitt
SIKESTON - At the conclusion of his first season in professional baseball, Blake DeWitt had nearly six months off as he returned to his home in Sikeston.

But just because he wasn't competing in actual minor league games doesn't mean he didn't have anything to do.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' first round draft pick finished his first season with the minor league Ogden Raptors in early September and has dedicated himself during the offseason in the weight room.

The 5-foot-11 DeWitt said he weighed 178 points in September at the conclusion of the season but has now bulked up to 198 pounds as he prepared to leave for the Dodgers' spring training home in Vero Beach, Fla.

DeWitt left on Saturday for spring training but he doesn't report until March 13.

(Photo)
Blake DeWitt takes infield practice while working out with the Sikeston Bulldogs.
"I'd like to get down there and get some workouts in and get down there to see how things work and what they expect of me," said DeWitt.

Spring training will last through March until early April where it will be determined where his next stop will be.

His two likely options are Low-A baseball in Columbus (Ga.) or High-A ball in Vero Beach. Both seasons will begin in early April.

"I hope to have a real good spring training and have a chance to stay in Vero Beach," said DeWitt. "It's a big jump, but I think I can handle it. I guess it's going to depend on my spring training and what they feel I need to do."

There is also a possibility that DeWitt could play with the Dodgers' current major league players in spring training split-squad games.

"I'm really hoping to get a chance to play with the big leaguers," said DeWitt. "I've heard guys talk about it last year in Ogden that they were able to play with them. I don't know about me and I haven't heard anything. I haven't heard a schedule yet. We just have to wait and see."

DeWitt, 19, who ended his legendary high school career with the Sikeston Bulldogs last June, played a full season with the Rookie League Raptors in Utah, where he was named the team's offensive MVP.

In 70 games, he led the team in five offensive categories, including home runs (12), doubles (19), runs scored (61) and total bases (146). Also, he was second on the team in RBIs with 47, hits with 85 and triples with three.

He batted .284 in his 299 at-bats, the most at-bats on the team.

While getting named the team's offensive MVP was a nice accolade in his first pro season, the ever-humble DeWitt just shrugged it off.

"It was good and it was a nice honor but you've just got to keep working," said DeWitt. "I didn't really set any kind of goals, I just wanted to go in and have a season that I knew I was capable of. But I still thought I could've done a little better. You're never satisfied.

"But I learned a lot. It was a year that I probably learned more about baseball than I've ever learned in my life --

just by playing and just by gaining some experience. There's some things I learned and hopefully I can carry those things into next year."

But while DeWitt shined on offense, he struggled in the field as he was moved to third base after playing shortstop the last two years of high school.

"At first it was an adjustment," said DeWitt. "I made a few throwing errors at the beginning. I made about 15 to 20 errors all season and I think probably three-quarters of those came in the first 15 games. It took a while to adjust, I mean the speed of the game was unbelievable. Once I settled in and got comfortable, I don't think I made very many errors after that.

"I felt I did an all right job at third base. There's stuff I still need to work on but I'm getting better."

Following his successful first pro season, DeWitt was slated to go to the Dodgers' instructional league in Vero Beach, but Hurricane Ivan and a followup hurricane caused too much damage at the facility and the league was canceled.

DeWitt then returned home to lift weights and stay in shape, but he's also had a chance to workout with some local teams recently.

"I've pretty much been working out on my own," said DeWitt.

"I've been fortunate enough to get some workouts at Southeast Missouri State. Our high school practice has started now so I've gotten to work out a few days with them too. It's been good and I feel I'm ready to go."

DeWitt's breakout season with the Raptors certainly got plenty of attention as he was recently named the eighth best overall prospect in the entire organization and the second best third base prospect.

DeWitt says he's seen the articles and has heard of the lofty rankings, but he takes it all in stride.

"It's a great honor, don't get me wrong -- but it doesn't mean anything if you don't go out and perform," said DeWitt. "It's a nice honor, but there's other things to work for. Getting to the major leagues is my No. 1 goal. It's not to be the top prospect, but to get to the major leagues as soon as I possibly can."

DeWitt signed a six-year contract with the Dodgers, including a $1.2 million signing bonus, so most likely he will have at least that long to prove himself.

But he thinks if he continues to progress that he can get to the majors much sooner.

For once, DeWitt's humbleness took a backseat to self-confidence.

"I really think if I have the seasons I'm capable of having then I don't think it should take very long," said DeWitt. "But that's me. Those decisions are made by the Dodgers. But I think in three or four years I can be there. I love playing for the Dodgers and I'm fortunate to be playing for the Dodgers. I couldn't ask for anything more."