The WBC gives Bobby Witt Jr. a unique opportunity, despite lacking playing time
By Jacob Milham
The World Baseball Classic has had its fair share of critics in this iteration. When cynics say the World Baseball Classic is just another money grab and a meaningless sporting event, injuries to Jose Altuve and Edwin Diaz only add fuel to the fire. Those detractors are tone-deaf to the players themselves, who are enjoying the event, the atmosphere, and the overall experience. KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. has barely seen any action for Team USA, to the chagrin of Royals fans. While the WBC may not be a statistically fruitful showing for Witt, just sharing the locker room with the game's best is a great experience for the budding superstar.
KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. is not seeing much action for Team USA but is learning invaluable lessons from his peers.
Witt has appeared in three games for Team USA, with only two at-bats. He could see more action against Cuba on March 19, but his lack of consistent playing time has surprised Royals fans. But take a look at the rest of the roster. Treat Turner is the team's best shortstop, Nolan Arendao blocks Witt playing at third, and Team USA has plenty of options at designated hitter. Witt's career is just getting started, and he is the youngest player by far on this roster. Witt said that he is just "soaking it all in" on the star-studded roster.
"“It’s a blast, these are the things you dream of. It’s like a two-way All-Star game. It’s incredible just getting around these guys, seeing all of the All-Stars, and the work they put in. You’re just talking about baseball, or whatever, every single day, which is awesome.""- Bobby Witt Jr.
There is no denying that the lack of playing time could hurt Witt's start to the 2023 season. He did get plenty of work to start spring training, but most of his peers have been playing nearly every day ahead of Opening Day, March 30. Fans will have to be patient if Witt takes longer than usual to get back into the swing of things for the Royals. His peers on Team USA have been helping the 22-year-old set himself up for future success in the MLB, according to Witt.
"“I’m learning the little things, doing the fundamentals right, getting your body right, and getting ready for the game. They made me understand that you’ve got to make sure your body feels good, your bat feels good, your glove feels good, and making sure everything is just right.’’ "- Bobby Witt Jr.
Witt has already proven he is ready for the game, at least in the batter's box. In 2022, he became just the fifth player who was 22 years old or younger with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season. Despite finishing the season fourth in American League rookie of the year voting, he led all rookies in stolen bases, RBIs, and extra-base hits. Arenado lauded the fellow in-state player with praise during the World Baseball Classic.
"“He’s going to be a star. Well, I take that back, he’s already a star. He’s going to a great one...I just love watching the way he works. He hits the ball hard. When I was at that age, I wasn’t moving like that. So it’s pretty cool to see.’’"- Nolan Arenado
Royals fans will be very happy to have Witt back in powder blues soon, but he is staying in the moment right now. This experience will build upon the foundation and lessons he learned from his father, who had a 16-year MLB career. Arenado talked about how Witt is ahead of his years, but Team USA Manager Mark DeRosa focused on something that cannot be learned: talent.
"“Obviously, he’s supremely talented. He’s going to be one of the great players in the game in short order. I told him when he got here, “Take a backseat to no one. Nuzzle up to these guys. You’ll be the one, a couple of years from now, kind of putting your arm around some guys.’ "- Mark DeRosa
Witt has to love the positive words from his Team USA peers, plus the experience of learning from the game's current and past best players. Who would complain about taking batting practice with Ken Griffey Jr. and Andy Pettitte? Certainly not Witt. This experience will be one that Witt does not forget. Hopefully next time, he will be the superstar, setting the example for younger players to follow.