The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 11, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Baseball brothers

Blair and Easton excited, humbled

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — They haven’t reached The Show, yet, but Tuesday night, they were The Biggest Show in Town.

Zak Blair and Brandon Easton, two Ashtabula County guys who were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft last Saturday, met at the request of yours truly at the beautiful Havens Complex for a photo session.

And not only was it the first time Blair, the former Jefferson star, and Easton, the former Pymatuning Valley great, met, it was like a walk on the red carpet for them.

With Little League games and legion-level games going on throughout the hustling and bustling ballpark, it didn’t take long for Blair and Easton to be treated like celebrities.

Signing some autographs will make anyone feel that way, after all.

“It was really cool,” Easton, the Lakeland Community College product selected in the 24th round by the Minnesota Twins said. “It was a lot of fun. So many people are so happy for us, it really makes you feel good about where we come from.”

Blair’s feelings mirrored Easton’s.

“It was a special thing for me, actually,” the Mercyhurst University graduate taken in the 20th round of the draft by the Chicago Cubs said. “There are so many people who come up and say, ‘congratulations,’ or ‘good luck’ or ‘we’re proud of you’... it really is all so very humbling.”

And the first meeting between the ballplayers proved enjoyable.

“Oh, man, it was great to finally meet Zak!” Easton said. “I have heard and read so much about him, it was awesome to have a chance to shake his hand and talk to him.”

“Brandon is a really cool guy,” Blair said. “It was awesome to meet him. It was fun talking to him. We exchanged numbers and we’re definitely going to stay in touch.”

The two guys made impressions on each other.

“I’m taller than Zak, yes, but he is really put together!” Easton said of the broad-shouldered, 5-foot-10, 195 pound middle infielder. “I can see how strong the guy is, that’s for sure.”

“Brandon is really a big guy!” Blair said of the 6-6, 195-pound southpaw. “I mean, I didn’t realize just how tall he is and with his height, he can easily put on some more weight and up his velocity even more... and it’s at what, 90-91 already?

“That’s ridiculous.”

Easton will sign his contract either today or Thursday, then fly from Cleveland to Ft. Meyers, Fla. later Thursday.

“They’re sending me to a mini-camp on Thursday there in Ft. Meyers,” he said. “That’s where one of their rookie-league teams (the Ft. Meyers Miracle, a member of the Florida State League) is based.

“I’ll probably either be staying there or sent to Tennessee.”

The Twins have a second rookie-league team in Elizabethtown, Tenn., the  Elizabethtown Twins, a member of the Appalachian League.

Blair, who signed his contract at Mercyhurst on Monday, is in for an experience today as he flies out of Cleveland at 10:25 a.m.

“I’m connecting in Charlotte, then fly to Phoenix, where I’ll land at 1:30 p.m.,” he said. “There’s supposed to be a representative from the Cubs to meet me there.”

And doing so in yet another rock-star way.

“The guy is supposed to meet me there with a sign with my name on it,” Blair said with a laugh. “I guess it will be like in the movies.”

Which was sort of what the former Falcon experienced last night.

“I purposely parked at the front of the complex because I wanted to just walk through the entire ballpark,” Blair said. “I just took my time and looked and listened, trying to take every single thing in. All these people were coming up and were so excited for me.

“I can’t begin to tell you how honored this whole thing makes me feel. These are things I will never, ever forget.

“I pretty much grew up here. I remember being in eighth grade and watching guys like Matt Mihoci and Zach Dennis and just thinking they were like gods because they were such great ballplayers. Then, as I got older, I got to know them and realized they are even better people.

“I hope some day, there may be someone who looks at me that way.”

Realize it or not, Zak, and Brandon, it’s already happening.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.

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