By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
Zak Blair stood, looking at the ground, hands on his knees.
He was trying to catch his breath.
His grandmother says to him, “See? I told you — I’m going to live long enough to see you play in the majors!”
Grandma should prepare for quite a ride, then, because Blair, a graduate of Jefferson and Mercyhurst University, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
In doing so, he becomes the first Ashtabula County product to be drafted since Dan Mozingo of Harbor High School in 1998 and on top of that, the first Falcon baseball player to be selected. He played high school ball for coach Scott Barber.
“I am truly honored and humbled,” Blair said. “This is completely a dream come true for me.
“Ever since I could walk, this is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve worked for and what I’ve dreamed about. I admit, I’m still in a bit of shock.”
Blair became the 14th Mercyhurst player in the history of the program to be taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, when he was selected as the second pick of the 20th round (588th overall) by the Chicago Cubs.
In addition to being the first Jefferson baseball player to be drafted, Blair is the first Mercyhurst player to be drafted since 2011, when left-handed pitcher Nick Gillung was selected in the 19th round (590th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals. He becomes the seventh-highest Laker drafted and the second drafted by the Chicago Cubs organization (Steve Grife, 2009).
Blair will be a busy guy in the next day or two... or 100.
“At this point, all I know is I’m flying out to Arizona on Tuesday from Cleveland,” he said. “I’m supposed to get a call (today), when they will lay everything out for me and I’ll know much more.”
As you would expect, the 23-year-old Blair couldn’t wait to express his appreciation for the many of whom have helped him to reach this point.
“My family, first and foremost,” the son of David and Carol Blair said. “And both sets of grandparents, my aunts, uncles, friends and coaches... all of them.
“There’s no way I’d be put in this position without them. I thank God for them because I am truly blessed. I know He has a plan for me, with without all of those wonderful people, all my hard work wouldn’t have mattered.”
And anyone who knows Blair will attest to how hard he’s worked to reach this point.
“It’s all worth it, it really is,” said. “There’s no one stopping you from working your hardest in this world and I always took that to heart.”
Blair related how he heard the news, which came just past 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“I was sitting here on the back porch, with my family and some close friends here in Jefferson,” he said. “We had the speakers plugged into the computer and were listening to the picks and then, we hear, ‘Zak Blair...’ I almost didn’t know how to react.”
Fortunately, Grandma did.
“She sure did!” Blair said through a laugh. “I’m truly living out my dream, a dream every little kid who has ever strapped on a helmet, grabbed a bat or thrown a ball has, I’m sure.”
So, has he caught his breath, yet?
“Well...” he said with another laugh as his voice trailed off a bit. “I’m a professional baseball player. I’m property of the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming for me, right now.”