Pressure simply 'motivation' for KC's Witt Jr.

February 10th, 2022

Still four months shy of his 22nd birthday, Bobby Witt Jr. finds himself on the precipice of achieving his dream.

MLB Pipeline's No. 3 overall prospect was a guest on the baseball-centric podcast "Datt's What She Said with Dani" with Alexa Datt and Dani Wexelman. He touched on a variety of topics, from what ace he'd most like to face in the Majors to the perceived pressure he faces as the son of a former big leaguer. And one thing is certain: Witt is comfortable in his own skin.

The 21-year-old will enter Spring Training later this month just a step away from the bigs after blossoming into the player the Royals expected when they selected him second in the 2019 Draft. Witt leapfrogged multiple levels and began 2021 with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and ended the year with Triple-A Omaha, batting a combined .290/.361/.575 with 72 extra-base hits, 33 homers and 97 RBIs in 123 games.

The Texas native also swiped 29 bases -- he actually joined the 30-30 club on the season's final day only to have the stolen base nullified when the game was canceled in the third inning due to rain.

So how does he prepare to top that? By putting in the work.

"I've been trying to get ready for the season," Witt said. "I think it's going to be a big season, so I'm really trying to put in the right prep. ... I'm really looking forward to it."

Much of that work has been done in Fort Worth, Texas, where he trains at APEC with NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes' trainer.

"There's about 30 pro ballplayers there, including big leaguers," Witt said. "It's cool to work out together and compete against each other. The trainers are trying to get our bodies right in ways [I] never thought of. ... It's a lot of fun."

Witt actually credits much of his success to the canceled Minor League season in 2020. While COVID-19 didn't allow him to suit up in the traditional sense, he was invited to Kansas City's alternate training site that summer and made the most of it.

"Being around big league players ... being around those guys, the big league staff and learning from them was a little cheat for me," Witt said of his alternate training site experience. "That whole season and being able to face our top prospects throughout the whole summer, I think that was a little advantage for me."

Witt built upon that experience as well as his time in Major League camp last spring in the ensuing Minor League campaign, but it wasn't without a couple of speed bumps.

"It was a big learning curve. Starting in Double-A those first few weeks, I was trying to find myself," he said.

A timely phone call with a Royals employee turned into what Witt calls his "a-ha" moment.

"Just be myself," Witt said. "Be Bobby Witt Jr. That's when I play my best. The biggest key ... was realizing I don't have to try to be this guy or this guy, I can just be me and still have success."

But what of the pressure of following in the footsteps of his father, Bobby Witt? Does trying to live up to a name that produced 142 wins across 16 Major League seasons cause sleepless nights?

Not at all.

"I think it's more motivation than anything. He played 16 years in the big leagues and I haven't played any yet," Witt said. "He's another little cheat sheet that I've always had growing up. He's pushed me each and every day of my life. The pressure was never really there from having a dad as a big leaguer, it's more motivation and ... more a blessing to have."

Whenever Witt does reach The Show, he'll do so with the mind-set of blending in with the Royals and helping them do one thing: win.

"Whatever I need to do to help the team win," he said. "I think I hate losing more than I love winning. Hopefully I can be a part of [winning in Kansas City], help mesh everything and hit the ground running. Just busting my tail each and every day to try and help the team. That's the ultimate goal."

Asked which elite pitcher he would most like to face in the Majors, Witt went straight to the top.

"[Jacob] deGrom or [Max] Scherzer ... or whoever is the top in that year," he said. "To be the best, I feel like you have to face the best. And if you can beat the best, then you can try to, hopefully one day, become the best."