Neal Boyd isn’t the only Sikeston native enjoying a measure of fame. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Blake Dewitt was also born and raised here in Sikeston.
Many of you know Blake’s story. He was a first round draft pick for the Dodgers in 2004, but prior to this season had never played above the AA level. A rash of pre-season injuries to Dodgers starters led to an unexpected call-up for Blake, and he found himself starting at third base for the Dodgers on opening day. A stellar performance in May earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors.
I work with Blake’s dad and have watched Blake play baseball since he was little. In addition to his outstanding athletic ability, Blake inherited an excellent work ethic from his dad. He’s also very level-headed. He’s never let success go to his head. Those qualities combined have been major factors in his success.
The whole city of Sikeston has been a little giddy over Blake’s success. The mayor even proclaimed April “Blake Dewitt Month.”
The Dodgers had a nice write-up yesterday recognizing the recent contributions of Blake and Angel Berroa. It included a little summary of Blake’s roller coaster ride this season.
DeWitt has experienced the type of season nobody could have predicted when he headed to Spring Training.
Despite being slated for Double-A Jacksonville, injuries made him the Dodgers’ Opening Day third baseman, a position he started at for 76 games.
Then an offensive slump led to Los Angeles’ acquisition of third baseman Casey Blake and DeWitt’s subsequent demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he learned to play second base, possibly to become Kent’s future replacement. Kent’s injury moved up the learning curve, forcing DeWitt into the starting second-base role in the heat of a pennant race.
“I definitely wouldn’t have expected it,” DeWitt said. “Sometimes it’s how this game works, and you’ve just got to be ready, you never know what’s going to happen.
“It’s been a great experience. I’ve learned a ton this year. I really couldn’t ask for more, especially as a young guy, to be here [and] get to experience being in a playoff race here in September. It’s pretty special.”
DeWitt said he enjoys playing second, but he admitted to being “a little shaky out there” his first couple games in the Minors. He’s worked hard with Dodgers coaches Larry Bowa and Mariano Duncan on angles, turning double plays and positioning at second.
The rookie infielder has been a different hitter since his callup, hitting .316 (6-for-19) with two homers and four RBIs. He has now homered in consecutive games after going 47 games without a Major League homer since his last long ball on May 29.
DeWitt had hit just .200 with six RBIs in June and July, going 16 straight games without an extra-base hit at one point. To make it worse, the slump came after DeWitt earned National League Rookie of the Month honors in May for hitting .322 with five homers and 18 RBIs.
Now, DeWitt sees himself having better at-bats with a “real good approach” after making that a focus during his time in the Minors.
“He’s the kid we saw earlier in the year when he started with us,” Torre said. “He did a lot of growing this year. I think if there’s a guy who’s had an opportunity and made the most of it this year, it’s been Blake DeWitt.”