Columbia native Blake Blase is the only player on the Mid-Missouri Mavericks from Missouri.
Blase could be another hometown boy playing for a local team, but his playing has made him stand out.
The New York Yankees organization dropped Blase in the early summer of 2003, and Blase returned to Columbia. He pursued the Mid-Missouri Mavericks, a new independent team, which his Hickman High teammate Jake Whitesides played on. Blase went to Taylor Stadium, tried out and the team signed him.
“Last year with the Yankees and stuff, I didn’t really get a chance to play,” Blase said. “So I just wanted to get to play cause I love playing baseball.”
Blase’s 16 home runs are fifth in the Frontier League, and he has 50 RBIs. He had 12 home runs for the Mavericks last season. With four home runs and 32 RBIs, Dusty Hillman is the only player on the Mavericks who comes close to Blase’s numbers.
“I just try to go out there and hit the ball hard every time, and put it in play, then I get lucky and the ball goes over the fence every now and then,” Blase said.
Gentile said he relies on Blase in tough situations.
“I don’t have to tell him this, he knows,” Gentile said. “He is third (in the lineup), your best hitter always hits third, so he knows by where I put him in the lineup, because he has played before.”
Blase said other coaches have approached him about trades, but since joining the Mavericks, Blase has developed a loyalty for the team.
“It’s my hometown, I like playing here,” Blase said. “Whether we win or lose you know I like playing baseball, and to play it in my hometown, that’s even better.”
Blase is one of three Mavericks players who were on the roster during spring training.
When Mavericks manager Jim Gentile joined the team June 21 he said Blase stood out.
“When I got here, right away I could see that he was one of the top players,” Gentile said. “You can see it in his actions. He can swing the bat better than most, he is a good fielding first baseman, and he just overshadows some of the other players.”
Gentile said Blase’s experience with the Yankees’ is another reason why Blase is a step ahead of his teammates.
“A lot of these guys are just straight out of college,” Blase said. “I just have a little bit more experience with playing professional baseball than them, and hopefully they look to me a little more.”
Blase was the only Mavericks player at the Frontier League’s All-Star Game on July 14. Blase said it was a little weird to be the sole player from his team to go when other Frontier League teams had three or four players each.
He struck out his two times up to bat, and had one home run in the home run derby.
Before the All-Star break, the Mavericks went 10-39, while Blase had a .275 batting average.
The Mavericks continue to struggle, but Blase said he has to keep his spirits up.
“I get frustrated with myself and with the team because no one likes to lose like we are doing, and I don’t like to lose, period,” Blase said. “You know, I am competitive in everything I do, and it is really frustrating losing like we do, but you can’t let that, as far as an individual player, affect your game personally.”
He tries to keep his mind off losses by working at Tonic, mowing lawns for a friend and working out. Blase said that whenever he is at home he will work in the morning until it is time to go to the stadium.
“You just got to come out there hitting,” Blase said. “The good thing about baseball is there is always tomorrow. I mean we play 96 games, we went 10 and 40 in the first half of the season and we can easily turn that around. I expect to win every day. I expect my teammates to come ready to play every day, and I expect them to expect to win every day.”
Kent Fewell, Blase’s baseball coach at Hickman, said he noticed Blase’s natural talent early on.
“He was one of the better players of his age group,” Fewell said. “He could run well, he had a lot of power, and he had a quick bat. He had all the tools to play baseball, and this was just growing up. He was one of the better players that I have been able to coach over at Hickman.”
Blase also played football at Hickman and went on to play football for Central Missouri State University in 2000. He dislocated his right shoulder several times, though, and after surgery quite playing football. He attended Moberly Area community College for a semester, and then went to Jefferson Junior College in St. Louis to play baseball, even though he had not played since high school.
When the Yankees organization drafted Blase in the 13th round in 2002, he said that was his best moment in baseball.
“Getting drafted by the Yankees, you know that is just huge excitement coming out of any college to hear that you are going to play for the New York Yankees,” Blase said.
If Blase continues to play well, Gentile said Blase could advance beyond the Frontier League again. It won’t be easy, though.
“We’ll see at the end of the year if another major league organization wants to pick him up,” Gentile said. “If they don’t, he is just another Frontier player.”