Ivan Witt is in the midst of a stellar campaign on the diamond for Neosho County Community College. The freshman catcher is hitting .339, with three homeruns and 15 RBIs in 20 games started.
After helping lead Fort Scott High School to the state semifinals in 2019, Witt lost his junior campaign behind the plate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While still at Fort Scott, Witt committed to play baseball at NCAA Division 1 Creighton University.
Due to a combination of factors, including graduating early from Fort Scott and NCAA eligibility rules pertaining to the pandemic, this season at NCCC will not count against Witt. His four years of eligibility will remain intact upon arriving at Creighton.
Despite his solid start to the season, Witt said he’s capable of much more.
“There’s been some learning curves,” Witt told The Tribune. “But I’m just trying to do my part every day to help the team win.”
Witt said he’s worked hard to have a successful transition from high school to college baseball.
“Definitely mental adjustments, and the way I approach at-bats,” he said.
Witt noted that he’s also had to make adjustments based on the speed of the game compared to high school baseball, but that he’s now settled in.
“This is a really competitive league,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good pitchers and teams. Especially in our rotation, our pitchers are really good. So just learning how to handle everybody, and staying calm. It’s a big adjustment from high school.”
Witt noted that the challenging nature of the catcher position is what’s most appealing to him.
“I love having to think and being involved in every play,” he said. “That’s all I’ve ever done, and I just really love the position. In my opinion, catching is a full-time job, and hitting is a part-time job.”
NCCC head coach Steve Murry has been impressed by Witt’s play thus far. Murry credited Fort Scott High head coach Josh Regan for Witt’s readiness to make an impact at the next level.
“I feel like Coach Regan does everything the same way we do it,” Murry said, noting that all of NCCC’s Fort Scott pipeline players of the past and present have been well-prepared and always exhibit a top-notch work ethic.
Murry said Witt “comes to work every day, and does not take days off.”
“Ivan is out there every day working on the little details most high school kids would never even think about,” Murry said. “When you think about his age, that’s pretty dang impressive. He could still be in high school. He’s a very impressive individual, and a fun kid to be around on a daily basis.”
Murry said Witt made a “very intelligent” decision to enter college a year early.
“This year won’t count against his eligibility, and he will probably wind up starting 45 games for us out of the 50,” Murry said.
Witt has a legitimate chance to play at the professional level if he continues on his current trajectory, according to Murry.
“In the remaining time we have with him, we’re going to try to help him get there,” he said.
While Witt prides himself on his defensive prowess, Murry said he needs to continue to make strides in that area.
“He needs to be more loose,” Murry said. “He’s a little stiff right now, as far as collegiate and pro-wise. And he’s learning that. Hitting-wise, it’s more about pitch-selection and refining his skillset.”
Murry said Witt has everything necessary to compete at the next level.
“A strong arm, good catcher, good hitter,” he said. “Now he needs to do it at a high level each time. Really get consistent with that. He’s going to get a whole lot of recognition. But he doesn’t need that, he needs the reps. And he’s getting those on a daily basis. It’s been really good for him, and us. Kind of a match made in heaven right now.”
Murry’s son, Zack, played professionally in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league organization. He said that for catchers who display an excellent bat, “there’s going to be a spot for you at every level.”
His son agrees.
“It’s one of those positions you usually get a pass for not being able to hit very well,” Zack Murry said. “So catchers who can hit, that’s an added bonus. He’s a very good player, and (we’re) proud to have him representing southeast Kansas at the next level. I’m looking forward to watching him at a Division 1 school as well.”
St. Louis Cardinals veteran catcher Yadier Molina is Witt’s favorite MLB player.
“He’s probably the greatest defensive catcher of all time,” Witt said. “At least in my generation.”