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From Chase City ballfields to MLB riser

South Boston News
Kahlil Watson / August 04, 2021

Kahlil Watson, selected by the Miami Marlins as the No. 16 pick in the first round of the MLB draft, signed with the team on Sunday for approximately $4.5 million. After inking the deal and signing bonus, Watson leaves Thursday for Florida.

The No. 16 pick carries a bonus slot value of $3,745,500. But the Marlins made a priority of signing Watson to a contract, noting his uncanny knowledge and skills for the game.

Watson graduated from Wake Forest High School in North Carolina this past spring. The son on Charles Lorenzo Watson and LaTonya Gillis Watson of Rehoboth and Skipwith, respectively, the shortstop grew up in Mecklenburg County. He said the feeling of being drafted was electrifying.

“I was excited to see was where I started at and where I finished at,” Watson said. “I started playing at three years old playing t-ball in Chase City Dixie Youth. In 2015 in my sixth-grade year I moved.

“When I got picked [by the Marlins] it was just a different feeling from where I was when I started off with baseball in Chase City, Va., and definitely a shout out to the Dixie Youth teams there.”

Watson said after committing to N.C. State University to play baseball, the professional scouts came calling. It was a dream of his that he wouldn’t turn down.

“For me I knew I was going to get drafted in the first round because I highly jumped the numbers on the [draft] board quickly throughout the summer.”

Watson said he never wants people in the area to think he moved away because Chase City was so small, with no avenues for get him noticed by college or MLB scouts. Though the move did work out tremendously in his favor, it was other reasons that compelled the change in households.

“The reason why we moved was because my grandma was sick and going through some stuff,” Watson said. “So every weekend we’d come here just to see her. But at the same time my parents knew the best fit for me was to move up out of there and come to North Carolina where more things were available to me.”

As he negotiates his path to the Major Leagues, Watson repeated that no matter what else happens, it all started in Chase City. After moving to North Carolina, Watson attended Wakefield Middle School as well as WFHS.

“I would say things definitely started in Chase City and then really started on travel ball,” Watson said. “Travel ball is where they start doing the rankings. I played with the Monarchs out of South Hill when I was 12. Then after that I moved to another group call Patriots and they were out of North Carolina. Then it was the Renegades. Then the Dirt Bags squad — I stayed with them for three years; I finished up with them.

“My first stage I went through was college scouts, once we went through the college scouts and I got committed (N.C. State). Then it came to MLB scouts and when they came for me it was about staying humble — stay humble, keep doing your work, when they do hit you up, let them hit your parents up.”

Watson says for the Marlins, he has a lot to offer and a lot to learn.

“I’d say my strengths are my arm strength, my running — I’ve got five tools, hit, run, speed, I’ve got all of that,” Watson said with confidence. “But what I need to work on is a lot of things on both sides of the ball.

“For me it’s all about just being humble and at the same time, trust the process and keep working hard throughout it. Once you think you have it down, there’s somebody out there that can teach you something else. So it’s always about learning something every day about baseball.” It’s a lesson his dad, who has been his coach his entire life, taught him.

His parents say they are proud of their son’s accomplishments. It was hard in the beginning on them because they just didn’t always have a chance to experience all the travel ball teams and so forth. “We didn’t have the money to take him to all these games and the traveling teams,” LaTonya said. “No one coached him but his dad, all the way from little league it’s been his dad. We were struggling back then and stuff.”

She says the days of sports being affordable would come much later, and that’s why they are appreciative of the youth sports available in Chase City at the time. LaTonya remembering Charles saying one day, “We don’t have money to spend on somebody to work with him and teach him what I can teach him.”

Both Charles and LaTonya were very comfortable with Kahlil being selected by the Marlins. “It was amazing,” LaTonya said. “They really welcomed him like he was already in the big leagues; the photo shoot with him and his family and we watched the game Saturday and last night (Sunday) against the Yankees.”

Watson, whose dad is a cousin to Longwood baseball star Frankie Watson Jr. said though he moved away, a promising player doesn’t have to follow that path to play in college and hopefully the pros. He noted with the merging of the Bluestone and Park View high schools and middle schools, athletics and athletes should improve across the board.

“You can move out and you can do something else, but you can also stay there — and at the same time when you stay there, you’ve gotta do what you have to do,” Watson said. “Put in the work, every day, every hour, don’t take days off, don’t hang out on the corner of the street, don’t be like everybody else because once you are like everybody else or fit in with them, they are going to try and get you in trouble.

“At the same time stay out of the way, keep your head and stay humble — just stay humble try to get better and work, work, work.”

Watson’s parents conveyed how focused their son is on encouraging other athletes from Chase City and Mecklenburg County to keep pressing towards your goals.

“He really wants to emphasize where he came from,” his mom said. “He doesn’t want anybody to think he has forgotten where he came from. That’s his main thing. It was a long journey but it worked out well.”

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Watson said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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