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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boston Red Sox: Prospect Jantzen Witte Trying to Tame the Hot Corner

The Boston Red Sox have a proud tradition of third basemen, with Jimmy Collins, Larry Gardner, Frank Malzone and Wade Boggs are just some of the fine players to have manned the hot corner in Beantown over the years. It’s a tough group to crack, but one that prospect Jantzen Witte hopes he can one day join.

Witte starred for Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, hitting .468 as a senior, earning team-MVP honors.

He accepted a scholarship to play at Texas Christian University (TCU). He was immediately a starter and became one of the most consistent players in school history. During his four years with the Horned Frogs, he appeared in 211 games, hitting .327 with 14 home runs and 138 RBIs. He also scored an impressive 132 runs while playing strong defense. Along the way, he received a long list of awards and recognitions that helped get him on the radar of MLB teams.

The Red Sox picked Witte up in the 24th round of the 2013 draft. He split his first professional season between the Gulf Coast League and short-season Lowell, hitting a combined .168 with 10 RBIs in 33 games. While it may not have been the strong start he hoped for, it was a chance to get his feet wet in preparation for his first full year in 2014.

Having seen Witte interact with fans prior to one of his games, I already had a great sense of admiration for how grounded and accessible he seemed to be. He only confirmed those feelings in the recent interview he gave me regarding his time in baseball. Make sure to read on to find out more, and keep an eye out for him next year as he seeks to advance up the Boston player development ladder.

Jantzen Witte Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up in Arlington, Texas, I grew up a Rangers fan and loved watching Michael Young play. He always seemed to play hard, and from what I can remember, he always did well in clutch situations. I tried to match his middle-away approach when I was growing up.

How did you wind up attending TCU?: I had a few other offers, but in my mind, I wanted to play for the best team possible because I thought I could work my way up and end up playing no matter where I went.
I had not signed with any college even going into the summer before my freshman year of college (which was a little scary). TCU's recruiting coordinator at the time, Todd Whitting, came and watched me play, and ended up bringing me on campus for a visit. I signed with TCU the day of my visit, and I cannot be happier with my decision to hold out for TCU.

How did you first find out that the Red Sox were interested in you?: I had never been drafted before and I was really looking forward to trying to get drafted after my senior year of college. We had scouts at our practices and had meetings with some scouts a couple of times during the year. I don't think I actually ended up meeting with anyone within the Red Sox organization, but after filling out a questionnaire for the Red Sox, I received a phone call from them making sure they had all of my information correctly and to me, that was a sign they were interested in drafting me and I was ecstatic.

What was your draft experience like?: After talking with some guys this past year, I realized my draft experience was a little different than most. I was doing some yard work outside of our house with my dad, and he had set up a little speaker with the draft picks playing. We worked outside all morning and I could tell he was getting a little frustrated that we had not heard my name over the loud speaker yet.

Because I was a senior, I didn't think it made a ton of difference wherever I got drafted, just as long as I got drafted. I walked inside the house to get a glass of water and decided to stop at the computer and look up the draft. When I went to the draft page's Twitter, the first tweet that popped up had my name on it, and I was very confused because I was expecting a phone call before I had been drafted. Shortly after, I started receiving text messages from friends saying congratulations, and that's when it started to hit me that I had actually been drafted by Boston.

What do you believe are some of the strongest aspects of the Boston organization?: When I think of the Red Sox, I think of history and tradition. There are so many great players who played with the Sox back in the day, and still playing now. I also love the fan base that supports the Red Sox. They are arguably the most loyal fans in all of sports, and I think that has shown this year like crazy. Even in Arlington, Texas I see Red Sox hats and gear everywhere.

What is one part of your game that you hope to improve on the most?: Since I am a corner infielder, I hope to improve my power the most. I’ve never hit a lot of home runs and I think with this extended offseason, I can get stronger and ultimately end up with some better power numbers this next season. In college, we were instructed to focus more on the process of hitting more so than the results, and the Red Sox have drilled that in our heads as well. So, ultimately, I want to put together good, positive, at-bats that will help our team. While I continue to focus on that aspect of my offensive production, I believe an increase in my power capabilities will benefit the team and myself.

How would you describe your first professional season?: There’s no doubt in my mind that my first professional season was a little rough. Once I was drafted, I was sent to Florida to play in the Gulf Coast League. I played okay but felt like I really didn’t play like I know I am capable of.

About a month into the season, I was called up to play for the Lowell Spinners, which I was ecstatic about. Once again, I didn’t get off to a hot start offensively, and before I felt like things were starting to turn around for me in the right direction, I was hit in the right hand by a pitch and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Although my first professional season didn’t go as I had hoped, I still gained a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to putting the things I learned this past season to use in this next upcoming season.

What has been your proudest moment of your playing career to date?: There is no doubt in my mind that the proudest moment of my baseball career came in 2010 when we played in the College World Series the last year it was held in Rosenblatt Stadium. The atmosphere around Omaha, Nebraska during the College World Series is unbelievable and I had an absolute blast playing there.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

1 comment:

  1. Great young prospect! Character guy too. Would be great for the clubhouse!