By STEVE KRAH
Duncan Hewitt has always played baseball with emotion.
As the Indianapolis native has matured he has learned how to harness that passion and make it work for him.
Hewitt, a 2016 graduate of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, credits Wildcats head coach Richard Winzenread for helping him channel his emotion on the diamond.
“I learned how to control my competitive edge playing for him,” says Hewitt. “I’m an emotional guy. He taught me how to embrace (my emotions).
“Don’t run from it. Find a way to turn that into something positive.”
Hewitt continued to do that at Butler University in Indianapolis. He played for the Bulldogs 2017-21, taking a medical redshirt year when he tore his meniscus 15 games into the 2019 season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he still has a year of eligibility.
“I’m certainly more level-headed and more calm, cool and collected than I have been at any time in my career,” says Hewitt, a team captain the past two seasons after having that unofficial designation at the end of his prep days.
Playing for Butler head coach Dave Schrage, Hewitt has appeared in 123 games (96 starts) with 675 putouts, 58 assists and just four errors and a .995 fielding percentage.
Though he played in just 15 games, Hewitt’s best offensive season was 2019 when the righty swinger hit .333 (15-of-45) with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and a .967
(. 434 on-base percentage plus .533 slugging average).
“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Hewitt of the Butler experience and playing for Schrage. “I got very, very lucky.
“He’s been around the game so long. I know he’s always got my back. I know he cares for me and my teammates very deeply.”
The connection between Hewitt and Winzenread continues as they still talk on a weekly basis and enjoys getting together with the coach and former LN teammate Nolan Watson (who pitches in the Kansas City Royals system) to talk baseball.
Hewitt, who turned 23 on May 17, is with the Coco Crisp-managed Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio) of the new MLB Draft League this summer. He and his teammates were going to travel to Pittsburgh to work out for the Pirates at PNC Park today (June 7) and then play a three-game series at the West Virginia Black Bears and three-game set at the Frederick (Md.) Keys.
“It’s a really, really cool idea,” says Hewitt of the MLB Draft League, an exposure circuit that sprung up out of the overhauling of Minor League and college summer league baseball with the MLB First-Year Player Draft being pared down and moved to July (the 20-round 2021 MLB Draft is scheduled for July 11-13). “I’m surprised its taking this long for something like this to come to fruition.
“It’s really giving guys a chance to come out and play and get a couple of last looks (for professional teams) and I’m finding it’s more for guys who haven’t gotten any looks at all. They’re proving they can play with anybody in the country. It’s cool to some of these come out with a chip on their shoulder and show what they can do.”
The MLB Draft League gives players a taste of pro baseball. They learn what it’s like to play everyday with most games beginning at 7 p.m. They see what its like to prepare for that and get the proper rest so they can perform at their best. A typical day at the park is 1 to 10 p.m.
“There are nuance things you can only gain through experience,” says Hewitt.
Three other Indiana players — Sam Crail (Sheridan High School and Saint Leo University), Hayden Jones (Fort Wayne Carroll High School and Illinois State University) and Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop High School and University of Cincinnati) — are on the Mahoning Valley roster and there are others in the league.
What Hewitt appreciates most about summer baseball is the blending of players.
“We’re coming from extremely different lifestyles,” says Hewitt. “But we’re all chasing the exact same thing.”
As a catcher, Hewitt has come to see the game like a coach or manager.
“(Catcher) is a position that takes good leadership and understanding personalities — when to chew someone out and when to put a hand on someone’s shoulder,” says Hewitt. “It’s a big, big reason I pride myself on making decisions in moments like that.”
Growing up in Lawrence Township, Hewitt got his first taste of league baseball through Oaklandon Youth Organization. He began playing for various travel teams around 9 including the Indiana Bulls in high school.
“I think I did it right,” says Hewitt. “My dad (Mike Hewitt) kept me away from the daddy ball experience and the crazy parents.
“I wore a lot of jerseys, but I always say I played for the Bulls.”
Dan Held was Hewitt’s coach with that travel organization.
“He was the first coach I had that was a professional himself,” says Hewitt of Held, who played at the Triple-A level in the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets organizations and is now an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Indiana University.
“To be on his team you had to be at a certain skill level and invited to play,” says Hewitt. “He introduced me to professionalism on the field.
“It was the way you carried yourself and how you went about your business.”
Duncan’s mother is Heather Hewitt and his sister is Presley Hewitt (18). The Lawrence North graduae is heading to the University of Cincinnati as a sophomore after starting at Ball State University.
Duncan Hewitt (Butler U. Photo)
Duncan Hewitt (Butler U. Photo)