Witt Jr., Lynch win national prep athletes of year
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. (AP) — Bobby Witt Jr. realized a childhood dream, getting selected No. 2 overall by the Kansas City Royals in the major league baseball draft.
The younger Witt added another honor, too, when he and softball pitcher Kelley Lynch were named national prep athletes of the year on Tuesday night.
The son of former major league pitcher Bobby Witt, the Witts are the first father-son duo to be selected in the top three of the draft.
“He pretty much taught me the game since I was little,” said the younger Witt, who pitched and played shortstop. “It’s 90% mental and 10% physical and he’s always taught me that and instilled the hard work.”
Witt Jr. is skipping college to play in the Arizona rookie ball league with an eye on the major leagues.
“It’s been a goal of mine ever since I was little,” he said.
He received his trophy from retired NFL great Peyton Manning, a former winner.
Witt Jr., of Colleyville, Texas, batted .482 with 15 doubles, nine triples and 15 home runs, compiling 55 RBIs — 28 of which came with two outs. He led Colleyville Heritage High to a 39-3 record and the Texas Class 5A state title.
On the mound, Witt Jr. had a 1.80 ERA with five saves in 12 relief appearances, striking out 24 and issuing just three walks in 11 2/3 innings.
Witt’s 55-year-old father pitched 16 years in the majors for Texas, Oakland, the Florida Marlins, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Arizona. He had a 142-157 record with a 4.83 ERA and 1,955 strikeouts from 1986-2001.
The younger Witt had a 4.0 grade point average.
Retired soccer player Abby Wambach presented the girls’ trophy to Lynch.
“I just want you women, you ladies, to understand I stood on the shoulders of giants and so will you,” Wambach said, invoking the names of women’s World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
“What Megan and Alex have done in terms of celebrating their victories, being confident, being badass, you all take that into every step of your career because the world is ready for you.”
Lynch, of Sharpsburg, Georgia, is the first softball player to win national athlete of the year honors in the program sponsored by Gatorade.
She led East Coweta High to a 32-2 record and the program’s second straight Class 7A state title last season. She was 17-0 with a 0.27 ERA along with a .436 batting average.
Lynch singled out her mother for “playing two roles the last six years.” Her father, who dreamed of Lynch playing Division I softball, died of cancer when she was 12. She has his date of death — March 7, 2011 — tattooed on the inside of her right arm.
“I felt still attached when I’m on the field,” Lynch said. “I think for sure he’s probably smiling right now. I definitely think of him.”
Witt Jr. and Lynch will appear on the cover of next week’s Sports Illustrated.
The other boys’ finalists were: Jake Smith, football, Scottsdale, Arizona; Liam Anderson, cross country, Larkspur, California; James Wiseman, basketball, Memphis, Tennessee; Omar Hernandez, soccer, Dalton, Georgia; Matthew Boling, track and field, Houston.
The other girls’ finalists were: Ellie Holzman, volleyball, New Orleans; last year’s winner Katelyn Tuohy, cross country, Thiells, New York; Azzi Fudd, basketball, Washington, D.C.; Sophie Jones, soccer, Atherton, California; Jasmine Moore, track and field, Mansfield, Texas.
The winners and nominees will walk the red carpet at The ESPYS on Wednesday night.