By Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Baseball, still widely known as America’s past time, is a game full of tradition. The food, the music, the ceremonial first pitch, and the 7th inning stretch are still the same, and they have been for many years.
There is nothing about Jantzen Witte that says ‘traditional baseball player.’ From his uncommon name to the way he bats, and even the path he took, he surprises us all on how he takes being untraditional and has made it work since he started playing baseball at 3 years old.
Witte also played tennis from when he was 6 till his freshman year of high school. Witte has an untraditional swing because of his love for tennis when he was younger.
“The team calls it a forehand swing to make fun of me,” Witte said. “When I first got to TCU, I didn’t even know how different my swing was. The coaches weren’t too crazy about it so we tried to tweak it a little bit.”
Though there were little changes, you can still sense the tennis player behind his swing. Playing competitive tennis for that long will leave a mark on someone “so the coaches started to have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ type of mentality about it,” Witte said.
The senior third baseman from Arlington, Texas, had a decision to make: stick with one sport and possibly make it to the next level, or play both. The decision to walk away from tennis was a hard one, but it was always going to be baseball for Witte.
“My dad grew up playing baseball so he got me into it,” Witte said. “Being from Arlington, we’ve always been big Texas Rangers fans. It was just expected that I was going to play baseball.
“Baseball was my favorite and tennis was pretty tiring. It’s a ton of traveling and long practices every day.”
Unlike many of his TCU baseball teammates, Witte wasn’t highly recruited.
“Most of them had a really hard time choosing between different schools,” Witte said. “But just like choosing baseball over tennis, it was always TCU for me.”
Even after his high school graduation, Witte was still uncertain of his collegiate plan. Upon choosing TCU, He started at what seemed like the bottom and worked his way to the top.
“I thought I could just hit my way through the lineup and that’s pretty much what I’ve done to get me where I am today,” Witte said. “I was lucky enough to be here, and be here for the best time for the school.”
Witte did arrive at the right time for TCU, as the Horned Frogs reached Omaha for the first time in program history with their appearance at the 2010 College World Series.
“Going to Omaha in 2010 was the best time of my life,” Witte said.
Witte and fellow senior Davy Wright are the lone remaining members of that Omaha team. As a redshirt freshman in that 2010 season, Witte hit a team best and career-high .374.
In each of his first three seasons, Witte has hit over .300 and is approaching that mark as a senior.
Though going to the College World Series brought Witte and his teammates closer, he still thinks about what could have been if he had chosen tennis.
“I really liked the team aspect of baseball,” Witte said. “As I’ve gotten older I’m starting to miss tennis more and more.”
With this being his senior year, Witte said he’s really tried to slow everything down by taking every moment in, to look back at good times like the College World Series.
“When going out to eat with older players who have graduated and moved on, they always talk about how much they miss baseball,” Witte said. “I know I’m going to miss playing for TCU, so I just have to realize how fortunate it is that I am here right now.”
Witte looks up to TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle, because of his life beyond baseball.
“I love baseball and try to play the best I can, but I have a pretty good grasp that it’s just a game and that I won’t be playing forever,” Witte said. “I look at my coaches with their kids on the field and realize that there is a life beyond baseball.”
The future holds many opportunities for Witte, but whatever it may be, will be in Texas.
“It’s my home. I love Fort Worth. I’m from Arlington, but Fort Worth has been really good to me,” Witte said.
Everything about Witte has been untraditional in a sport based so highly on tradition. The way he rose to the top, his name, and mostly his swing is different from any other, but this seems to have paved a pretty compelling road ahead. From tennis to baseball, the choice seems to have been the right for Jantzen Witte.