The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 30, 2013

A Don McCormack column: A Blair for the dramatic!

Former Falcon Zak Blair off to blazing start in Arizona

Zak Blair’s personality has pretty much always been geared toward baseball and the tools of his trade match that perfectly.

As in, walk softly and carry a big stick.

Three weeks into his professional baseball career, the former Jefferson star is doing exactly that.

Playing for the Arizona League Cubs, the Mercyhurst University graduate is swinging a red-hot bat, to the tune of a robust .444 clip.

So much so, in fact, he is leading the entire 13-team league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), hits and RBI.

In other words, the first-year Cub is proving to be a bear for AZL hurlers.

“It’s gone really, really well,” the 20th-round draft pick of the Cubs said in a telephone interview at 2 a.m. Sunday (11 p.m. Arizona time) after just leaving the ballpark following an 8-6 Cubs win against the AZL Athletics in Mesa.

Blair led the hit parade for the Cubs in the victory, going 3-for-4, with two doubles, three runs batted in, two runs scored and a walk.

“It was a good day,” the son of David and Carol Blair said.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound left-handed swinging infielder laughed when made that obvious understatement.

Blair’s humble reaction when quizzed about how things have been going is a byproduct of a game in which how a player deals with failure is more important than how he handles success.

“I would never call baseball a job, because it’s my dream, but I can see what guys do drop out of the game,” he said. “Because it really is such a game of failure... and how you deal with it.”

The routine

Blair took me through a typical day for him in his new life.

“Well, first, I’m living in a Best Western,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not a hotel, it’s a motel. I live with a guy from Seton Hall.

“I wake up before 10 and get some breakfast, then go back to the room and watch some TV and relax. I’m at the ballpark by 1:45 to get in some extra work and break a little sweat.

“After that, I go back to the locker room and grab a bit to eat, with lots of fruit and water. At 3, we go out for what they call ‘early work,’ on a half-field, which is only an infield, and we take ground balls, work on double plays and situations.

“Basically, we have a two-hour practice before we play each game. After the early work, we take a break and go play the game.

“It’s pretty regimented.”

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