The meeting that saved Nick Wittgren's baseball career

Baseball stops at McCutcheon, Parkland College, Purdue and now the MLB may never have been possible for Nick Wittgren, without Jake Burton's persistence with the current Cleveland Indian's reliever.

Posted: May 13, 2020 7:10 PM
Updated: May 13, 2020 7:13 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Nick Wittgren's baseball career almost never took off.

As the Lafayette native reflected on his baseball journey that's lead him to the Cleveland Indian's pitching staff, he pinpointed one moment that saved his playing career. 

"If this did not happen, then my life would not be where it's at right now," said Wittgren. 

The moment was a meeting with his high school head baseball coach Jake Burton. Wittgren nearly quit the sport his senior year to pursue a college basketball career. Burton then pulled Wittgren into his school office to discuss that decision. 

"He convinced me, like hey, look, you know you got something special, you can do something with it, just don't waste it," said Wittgren. 

Wittgren didn't waste it. The former Maverick played his senior season with McCutcheon, then went on to pitch at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. His next stop was back home again. Doug Schreiber envisioned a spot for Wittgren in Purdue's bullpen. That's when his career really took off. 

A summer spent in the Cape Cod League boosted Wittgren's draft stock. Before that opportunity, Wittgren had his mind on graduation and the work force. Fast forward to the 2012 Major League Baseball draft, and the Miami Marlins selected Wittgren in the 9th round. 

Wittgren enjoyed his best Major League season in 2019 after being traded to the Indians before the season started. He recorded a 2.81 Earned Run Average in 55 appearances, including four saves.

While sports all over the world have been put on hold, Wittgren is cherishing the opportunity to be at home with his wife, and one-year-old son Jackson. 

"It's one of the good things that came about this," said Wittgren. "I get to spend a lot more time with my wife and my son, and actually get to be there with them every single day for the whole day."

As Wittgren prepares for whatever comes next in his baseball life, he's enjoying the simple things from his Florida home. Baseball has taken Wittgren from Lafayette's south side, all the way to Progessive Field in Cleveland. It's a path that might of never been traveled, if it weren't for Jake Burton. 

"I tell everyone, if it wasn't for Jake I honestly would literally not be here right now."

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