Image credit: Bobby Witt (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Allsport)
Bobby Witt has come full circle. Thirty-four years ago, Witt was the first-round pick in bonus negotiations. The Rangers had drafted the hard-throwing righthander out of Oklahoma.
Now, Octagon Baseball, where Witt is employed as a senior client manager, will represent his son Bobby Jr. when the Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High shortstop is expected to be among the top players drafted this year.
“I love it, to be honest with you,” Witt said of his work at Octagon Baseball. “It keeps me around the game, which I love. I’ve always been on the players’ side . . . People say, ‘You’ve gone to the dark side.’ Not necessarily. I’ve been on the players’ side my entire life.”
Witt was the third player selected in the 1985 draft, commanding that year’s highest bonus of $179,000. He received an unprecedented perfect 80 grade (on the 20-80 scale) from the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.
A year later, the 22-year-old Witt was pitching in the major leagues, just as quickly earning the nickname “Witt ’n Wild,” a play on the Wet ’n Wild water-park next to Arlington Stadium.
Witt led the American League in walks in three of his first four seasons with Texas, handing out 6.7 per nine innings.
“I was learning at the big league level,” Witt said. “It took me some time to kind of figure things out . . . I was trying to throw it, honestly, as hard as I could, pretty much every pitch. I didn’t have that changeup I needed until later in my career.”
He learned quickly enough to go 17-10, 3.36 with the Rangers in 1990, when he struck out a career high 221. Witt pitched parts of 16 seasons in the majors with seven teams, recording a 4.83 ERA to go with a 142-157 record.
He was part of playoff teams with the 1992 Athletics and 1996 Rangers. He earned a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks in 2001. After missing most of that season while on the disabled list, Witt made the postseason roster and pitched one scoreless World Series inning in a Game 6 win against the Yankees.
On June 23, 1994, Witt came within a close call by umpire Gary Cederstrom of throwing a perfect game for Oakland. The Royals’ Greg Gagne was the game’s only baserunner after being ruled safe following a sixth-inning bunt.
“I believe, as well as I think my teammates, the opposing team and everybody who was in the stands that day, that they saw a perfect game,” Witt said. “Now, in today’s game, it wouldn’t happen because he would have been out. That’s part of it. I’ve accepted it and moved on.”
Witt also was the first AL pitcher in 25 years to hit a home run. He connected on June 30, 1997, off the Dodgers’ Ismael Valdes in one of the first interleague games in history.
“My son gives me a hard time about my swing, and how I ran around the bases and what I looked like,” said Witt, a father of four who lives in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville with Laurie, his wife of 32 years.
“But I can tell him . . . I do have a home run in the big leagues, and, as of now, you have none.”