DeWitt Excels in Arizona Fall League

Think Blue. That's the slogan that a lot of Los Angeles Dodgers fan live by, including one Sikeston native Blake DeWitt, who suits up for the Dodgers every day in the Minor League Baseball system.

DeWitt, the 28th overall pick in the 2004 Major League baseball draft, second overall by the Dodgers, has spent his last few years suiting up in some form of a Dodger uniform. It started with the Ogden Raptors and the Gulf Coast Dodgers, both rookie clubs, then went to the Inland Empire 66ers uniform, the A club, and then as of late, the Jacksonville Suns AA team uniform.

More recently than that though, DeWitt donned the Peoria Saguaros uniform in the Arizona Fall League, where he played 16 games for the Dodgers fall league squad, that also includes players from the Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and the San Diego Padres.

The AFL is basically the last stop for players who are ready to compete at the pro level, and more often than not, the players in the AFL end up in the big leagues before the next season's end.

Last season, in the 2007 Major League All-Star Game, there were 24 players on the two rosters between the National League and American League that had once gone through the AFL at some point in their career.

As for being given the opportunity to further his career, DeWitt said it was a big honor to be asked to go.

"It was a huge honor," he said. "As far as the fall and winter leagues go, it's definitely one of the top leagues. Usually the way it goes, it's one year in the fall league, and then the next year is the big leagues."

In 16 games, DeWitt batted .281, in 57 at-bats, with 12 runs scored, on 16 hits with six RBIs. He had six walks, three doubles and two triples, accounting for his 23 total bases, while racking up a .354 on base percentage and a slugging percentage of .404.

DeWitt was joined by one other position player from his Jacksonville team, as well as five pitchers that traveled to Arizona as well.

"I had a good year, and a good fall season," DeWitt said. "I set myself up for spring training, and I could see myself up there (the majors) sometime this next year (if all goes well)."

"If I had a good year, a lot can factor in," he added. "There's always a chance." DeWitt played primarily at third base, but got his taste of first base as well with the Saguaros.

"I went to first base for a couple of games, just to get some extra at-bats," he said. "It was different. It was the first time I had ever done it, but who knows when the opportunity may come up sometime."

In the minor league system, DeWitt has faced the likes of New York Yankees young guns Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes.

"Last fall I got to face them," he said. "Joba (Chamberlain) is a good pitcher. You could tell he had impressive presence on the mound."

DeWitt went on to say that he remembers getting a hit or two off of Chamberlain, and that the competition in the AFL resembled those types of games.

"It's definitely better than the regular season," he said. "Those guys are the best of AA and AAA pitchers up there (in the AFL). It's pretty much a combination of the best in the minor leagues."

He went on to say that he attributes his success thus far to his family, friends, and coaches along the way, and added that the one thing he missed the most throughout the season, is just that, his family and friends.

"It's a long season," DeWitt said. "I don't get to be home much. But when I'm playing ball, time flies pretty quick."

When asked how it feels to get up every morning and get to play baseball for a living, DeWitt didn't hesitate.

"It's great," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's great just knowing I have the opportunity to get to have fun every day."

"There's also a lot of financial reward," he added. "But, that's not the reason to be playing the game."

DeWitt also added that he is proud to be a Dodger, given that they were the ones to take him first, and that he does bleed Dodger blue like many of the Dodgers to go before him.

"I'm just trying to make the most of it," he said. "I'm definitely a Dodger." DeWitt said that he hasn't met the big league club's new skipper Joe Torre, but said that he can't wait for the opportunity to do so.

"Hopefully I'll get to play for him someday," he said.

As for ever receiving a contract like Alex Rodriguez is currently negotiating— DeWitt had to be asked the question.

"I'd like to say I hope so," he said, laughing. "But, the chances are slim. He's a great player."

Maybe someday, but for now, the goal is just getting to suit up in the Dodger home uniform, walking across the Santa Ana Bermuda grass, onto the field at Dodger Stadium, in front of a sold-out 56,000 attendance crowd.