Not a bad way to begin the first day of summer, huh?
While that experience alone would be a memory to last a lifetime, there’s plenty more of those days ahead during the summer of 2012 for Blanchard.
Jacksonville State University’s two-sport standout is playing baseball for the Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. The summer league team has turned out many Major League Baseball players such as Tino Martinez, Darin Erstad and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Blanchard, a 2010 draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, has dreams of joining that list.
“It’s been awesome so far,” Blanchard said. “It’s a very prestigious league and it’s a great opportunity playing in it. There’s a lot of people who have been drafted out of the Cape. Just being able to play here is awesome.”
The JSU junior-to-be got his chance to play in the league thanks to Gamecock baseball coach Jim Case. Several of Case’s players had played in the league before, including Atlanta Braves draft pick Todd Cunningham.
Blanchard said he owes a lot to Case for making his opportunity to play in the league happen.
“I could have never done this without Coach Case,” he said. “He loves all his players and tries to do the best for them. He talked to some guys and they got me in here. He’s coming up here later to watch some games. We’ve had guys in the past do really well up here. Hopefully, I can do well and make Jacksonville proud.”
As part of the baseball program, Blanchard is living with a “host” family, the Mardens – Tara Marden, mother of Avery, Colie, Lucas and Noah Marden.
Blanchard said he’s already hit things off well with them.
“They’ve been great,” Blanchard said. “They don’t have to do this, but they’ve definitely made it comfortable for me. You couldn’t ask more from them than that.”
In just a short amount of time, Blanchard said he’s gotten close with the Marden children.
“They really look up to me, and any time I can set a good example for little kids, that makes my day,” Blanchard said.
Through Wednesday, Blanchard, listed on the Commodore roster as an infielder, had played in four games with the Commodores (4-2), who are currently leading the Cape Cod League’s Western Division. He’s batting .273 with three hits in 11 at-bats, four walks, two runs and a RBI.
“It’s a league where they want everyone to play. They want everyone to have an opportunity,” Blanchard said. “I’ll play a couple of games, then sit a game, just so everyone can get some playing time. Hopefully I can be an everyday player for them soon.”
Blanchard got his first pair of hits on Monday against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He went 2 for 3 with a walk, a run and a RBI in the Commodores’ 6-4 victory.
Blanchard said getting his first hit with the team was “relieving.”
“I’m not going to lie, the guys throw pretty hard up here,” he said. “It’s pretty cool going up against all these great players. You watch some of them on TV, and then you’re in the batter’s box seeing a 90-mph fastball from them coming at you.”
Blanchard will continue playing with the Commodores through August. Falmouth’s final home game is Aug. 7, with the playoffs beginning on Aug. 9.
Despite spending his time playing baseball during the summer, Blanchard said he still plans to play quarterback and punt with the Gamecock football team in the fall.
“I’ll be back for two-a-days,” he said. “I talk to Coach (Jack) Crowe and Coach (Ronnie) Letson almost every day, so I’m staying on top of what’s going on. They’re going to work me in when I get back. They’re already working on some plays for me.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Falmouth’s games are video streamed on the team’s website, www.falmouthcommodores.com. The site also features the Commodores’ schedule, roster and statistics.