2019 High School Player Of The Year: Bobby Witt Jr.

Colleyville Heritage High head coach Alan McDougal remembers feeling disappointed. And tired.

It was around 4:30 in the morning late in May 2018. The baseball team had just gotten back to school after losing a one-run game to Amarillo High in the Texas regional semifinals. The charter bus was a disaster, filled with trash strewn by players still thinking about the heartbreaking end to their season.

McDougal got off the bus and went to clean up his things. He returned to the bus to clean, only to see junior shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.—soon to be the top-ranked high school prospect in the country—and his teammate Mason Greer quietly tidying up. No one asked them to do that. But they did it anyway.

It’s one of the memories of Witt that McDougal said he will never forget.

“That just spoke volumes to what those kids are, as humans,” said McDougal, who has spent 11 seasons as head coach at Colleyville, a suburb of Dallas. “(Witt) is the definition of a selfless kid. And in today’s generation, when you have a kid with that kind of talent and those expectations, you would think he would be all into ‘me’ and that’s just not the way he operates.”

Witt has shouldered high expectations for a long time. Scouts knew his name and talked about his five-tool talent before he was even draft-eligible. Back when he was a rising junior he patrolled the dirt of USA Baseball’s fields at the Tournament of Stars, competing against players who would go on to be drafted in the first round just months later.

Back before he even got a chance to play high school ball, Witt put high expectations on himself. Around 10 years old, he remembers wanting to win a Texas state championship. Wanting to get drafted. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps and play pro ball and someday reach the majors.

“I just knew that this is what I wanted to do,” Witt Jr. said. “And it was going to take a lot of steps and a lot of hard work. I just kind of instilled that in my brain, and ever since then it has always been just a grind.”

Steadily, the grind has been paying off. Witt has been checking off the boxes he laid out for himself as a preteen.

This spring, in the Texas 5A state championship Witt and his Colleyville teammates were determined to end their season on a high note after three years of falling short—not by picking up trash into the morning hours and stewing about defeat.

“It hit home for me (that this was our last shot),” Witt said. “It made me want to work more and work harder—try to get to the best spot at the end, just getting called the state champions. I’ve always put that in the back of my mind, whenever I’m working out or hitting or whatever, just have that in the back of my head.”

During the quarterfinals, Colleyville won the first of a three-game series against Mansfield Legacy High before dropping the second game and forcing a win-or-go-home third game. McDougal remembers waking up to a message from his star shortstop.

“I got a text from Bobby first thing the next morning that said, ‘Sun’s up today. This is going to be good. Our road doesn’t end today.’”

Colleyville went on to beat Mansfield before sweeping Amarillo in a regional semifinal rematch. Witt sparked the offense with a 2-for-5 game including a home run, two runs and four RBIs in the first game against Amarillo. Over the team’s final six games, he went 5-for-17 with a home run, a triple, six walks, six runs and six RBIs en route to a 5A state championship against Georgetown High.

“It’s mind-boggling what he’s able to do,” McDougal said. “And to be honest, it amazed me that some people continued to pitch to him—but they did.”

Witt led the team with a .500 average while hitting 15 home runs, 15 doubles, eight triples and 19 stolen bases. He also pitched in 11 games, recorded five saves and posted a 1.35 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 10.1 innings.

He did all of that with intense scrutiny every game. The Royals—who wound up selecting Witt with the No. 2 overall pick of the draft—had scouts bearing down on him for every inning he played and every swing he took in the batter’s box.

“It has been kind of surreal watching him go through this whole process,” McDougal said, “especially with the draft being such a big deal, as far as talent evaluators coming in . . .

“But he is an extraordinary kid with even more talent.”

Witt won’t just be leaving behind a state championship and a pristine résumé, but a legacy to guide future Colleyville players. He modeled not just how to be a great player, but how to be a better teammate.

McDougal sees the same Witt today as he saw when he first met him as an 8-year-old.

“He just loves to play the game of baseball and has been blessed to have some skills where he can do it at a pretty high level,” the coach said.

Witt says that his father Bobby Sr., a righthander who was drafted third overall in 1985 and went on to spend 16 years in the majors, provided him a “cheat sheet” thanks to his major league experience and knowledge of the game. Now, Witt Jr. can do the same for others.
“That’s the mold that Bobby has set for us,” McDougal said. “If you want to see how it’s done, just watch that cat . . . just open your eyes and watch how to conduct yourself as an athlete and person—it’s just right there in front of you.

“That, to me, is the biggest impact that he has had on me as a coach and to our program . . . This is the best high school player in the country, yet he’s the first here, he’s the last to leave, he’s going to pick up trash, he’s going to help others—he does it right. And you have others who are benefiting from seeing that.”

Now, with a state championship secured—and after one-upping his father in the draft—Witt is ready for the next part of his baseball journey.

He’s ready to start checking off more of those boxes.

“(I’m still) kind of taking it all in,” Witt said, “but obviously I want to keep getting better day in and day out. Kind of like how Mike Trout is. He’s the best in baseball right now and he’s getting better each and every year. That’s what I want to do.

“No matter what step it is in pro ball, try to get better and better and eventually, hopefully, one day make it up to the big leagues and just play.

“Be the best teammate I can be, be there for my team and try to get that team a World Series.”

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