Lee’s Summit West product, infielder John Privitera, is batting .255 so far in his collegiate career at Missouri State.
During his sophomore high school season, Privitera won the Titans’ defensive player of the year after posting a perfect fielding record. He stole 21 bases in 21 attempts during his junior campaign, helping lead the team to a district title.
Privitera said his high school baseball team was very competitive with a lot of great players. He said his favorite part of being apart of the team was creating relationships with guys he still keeps in touch with today.
As a senior, Privitera hit .334 with 21 steals in 31 games, earning him conference and district honors. Rated as the No. 30 prospect in the class of 2015 according to Prep Baseball Report, Privitera had just one option after high school: Missouri State.
Head coach Keith Guttin said he wanted Privitera because of his athleticism, running speed and the fact he was a left-handed hitter.
Although Privitera had a spot on the team when he came to Springfield, he did not have a scholarship, according to Guttin. He had to work to earn his scholarship.
“Privitera is a hard-working kid from a hard-working family,” Guttin said. “He kept working and worked his way into a position, and eventually got a scholarship.”
Privitera was not the only player Guttin wanted from Lee’s Summit. High school teammate Logan Geha became Privitera’s college teammate at Missouri State as well.
“I was pumped when I found out he committed here,” Privitera said. “I was really fired up.”
Geha felt the same way; he chose Missouri State because of his friendship with Privitera.
“I knew a couple guys when I arrived at MSU, and when John committed it made it a much more appealing choice for me,” Geha said.
Privitera and Geha have played together since little league, and Privitera said he doesn’t want to seem biased, but Geha is his best friend on the Bears’ squad.
“He’s always been a competitor as a player,” Geha said. “On and off the field, he gives it his all and is overall a great person to be around. We share similar personalities, we’re goofy and have a good sense of humor. We’ve been together all our lives and share so many great memories.”
Privitera decided to redshirt his freshman season.
He said Guttin gave him the option to do so, explaining he might not get much playing time or many at-bats over Aaron Meyer, who emerged as the Bears’ top offensive threat and starting second baseman.
“I felt like it was the right thing for me to do,” Privitera said. “It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made, other than coming to Missouri State.”
In 2017, when Privitera was eligible to play again, he stepped into the shoes of All-Missouri Valley Conference first-teamer Meyer, who was out for the rest of the season due to an injury. Privitera cleanly handled 90 of his 92 fielding chances and hit .313 in conference play that season.
“When he stepped in for Aaron Meyer on that ‘17 team, he did a nice job for us in the postseason,” Guttin said.
Privitera went 5-for-13 in postseason play that year, helping the Bears advance to the Super Regional for the second time in three seasons.
Privitera said he never felt nervous or anxious when he filled in for Meyer. He said when the time came, he wasn’t antsy — he was ready.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t nervous,” Privitera said. “I kind of had a chip on my shoulder. I knew I was as prepared as anybody else.”
Privitera came back attacking for his sophomore season, collecting career records in almost every offensive category. He posted 38 runs, 45 hits, 20 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
He started 56 out of 57 games as a sophomore while fielding at a .978 efficiency. Privitera drew 45 walks that season, ranking fourth in the Valley and 51st nationally.
Following in Meyer’s footsteps, Privitera emerging as the most productive player at the plate for the Bears down the stretch and earning All-MVC first-team honors, batting .292 in league play.
Privitera said though he improved from the previous year, he didn’t feel like he was at the top of his game that year. He said he felt as though he was in the middle of his career and that he hadn’t reached the ceiling yet and could still maximize his potential.
At the end of the 2018 campaign, Privitera said he was focused on improving in every area, just trying to get better and ready for the next season. One of the areas Privitera said he wanted to work on most was at the plate. He said he wanted to work on his approach, mechanics and swing for more productive at bats.
In the beginning of this season, Privitera did just that. He led the clubhouse in batting average for the few couple weeks of nonconference play. Privitera has since drifted to fourth out of the starters.
Guttin said he isn’t worried about Privitera and doesn’t think he’s in a slump.
“That’s baseball,” Guttin said. “You’re going to have days where you hit everything on the nose and have a great night — and there’s nights when you don’t do that. It kind of evens out over the long haul.”
Privitera did not seem worried either.
“I’ve been going through some mechanical tweaks,” Privitera said. “Pitchers are pitching me a certain way, pitching me harder. I’ve had to adjust my approach and my mentality.”
Privitera is one of three starters to have started every single game thus far this season. He has collected six doubles, three triples and one home run this season in 35 of his 137 at bats, posting an average of .255.
Privitera is fifth among Bear starters in fielding percentage at .960.
He is currently tied for fifth in the Valley at fielding double plays and 10th in the conference for most at bats.
Privitera said he is really looking forward to the conference tournament and seeing what this team can do down the stretch in crunch time.
“I hope we can start turning this around and playing better baseball because we have the talent,” Privitera said.
Privitera said his favorite part of being a Bear is the day-to-day atmosphere of being around the guys and the coaches. He said it’s like a family and enjoys the relationships he’s building along the way.
“Regardless of what happens on the field, we’re a pretty tight-knit group in the clubhouse and on the road,” Privitera said. “We’re all really close and like to have fun together.”