Jefferson grad Witt signs with Nationals
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Paul Witt was a four-year starter with Jefferson High School’s baseball team. In both his junior and senior seasons, the Cougars were crowned state champions with wins over Nitro in Charleston at Appalachian Power Park. After his senior season in 2016, Witt was named the best high school player in the state.
Witt was a shortstop in his last few seasons at Jefferson. His take-notice high school seasons were well-scouted by colleges and professional baseball, and Witt was awarded a scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
As a freshman in the Atlantic 10 Conference with the Rams, Witt was the team’s starting shortstop and batted a cool .376. As a sophomore, Witt again started at shortstop and batted around .350. Midway through his junior year in 2019, he was moved to second base and completed the season hitting about .330.
Witt was eligible to sign a professional contract after his junior season, but wasn’t drafted and returned to VCU for his fourth year in the fall of 2019.
The 2020 season had its beginnings in the usual baseball way, with cool weather dominating the games played in February and early March.
Then the unexpected and unthinkable happened.
College baseball seasons were suddenly stopped, the result of the coronavirus wrapping its tentacles around the world.
March, April, May and June sped through the calendars and no more college baseball was played.
Witt and the Rams had played fewer than 20 games, and the slender middle infielder had batted his usual .340, playing again at second base.
Major League Baseball severely reduced its annual draft of amateur players to just five rounds — meaning only 160 players were selected.
Any athlete not selected in those five rounds could not be given a signing bonus of more than $20,000.
With the cancellation of the last few months of the scheduled college baseball season, Witt and all the other players were offered another year of eligibility should they want it.
However, Witt took another route, instead of returning to VCU for what would have amounted to a senior-year-do-over. He signed a professional baseball contract with the defending world champion Washington Nationals.
Witt can’t begin his career as a professional player this summer, because there is no minor league baseball being played.
When and where his play-for-pay days will begin has not been decided.
He’s a “pro.” His rise or fall in the pro ranks is dependent on his health, his performances and how he projects as a possible major leaguer by the Washington front office.
Very few Jefferson High School baseball players ever join the professional baseball ranks. Should he successfully move through the Washington minor league system, Witt would be the first Jefferson graduate to ever reach as high as the major leagues. Infielder Jeff Reynolds rose to Class AAA once upon a time. His star was the highest in the sky reached by any former Jefferson High School player.
Witt will probably begin his career as a second baseman, but his skills are enough that he could be tried in left field or even at shortstop.