By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
They’ve never met, but Zak Blair and Brandon Easton will be forever linked after what’s happened the past few days.
After a decade and a half of inactivity when it came to the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Blair and Easton put Ashtabula County back on the map.
That’s what happens when two players, both from south of Interstate 90, are drafted — within a 90-minute span, or so.
Blair, a former Jefferson star and a recent Mercyhurst University graduate, was taken in the 20th round by the Chicago Cubs at around 3 p.m. Saturday.
Easton, a former Pymatuning Valley standout who just finished his freshman season at Lakeland Community College, was selected in the 24th round by the Minnesota Twins. The pick was made around 4:30 p.m.
In being selected Saturday, they became the 11th and 12th players from Ashtabula County to be chosen in the draft, which initiated in 1965, the first since former Harbor star pitcher Dan Mozingo in 1998.
Now, their names will be forever listed side by side as being 2013 selections.
“I’ve heard a lot about Brandon the past couple of years,” Blair, 23, said of the left-handed hurler. “Everyone who has seen him pitch has said he’s something special.
“Obviously, for him to be taken in the 24th round of the draft, he is and good for him! I’m very excited for him.”
“A tip of my cap to Zak Blair!” Easton, who will turn 21 on Sept. 21, said of Blair, a shortstop drafted as a second baseman by the Cubs. “I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Zak, but I’ve heard his name often and everyone says what a great ballplayer he is.
“His name has always been out there. For him to be taken in the 20th round, wow, that is impressive!”
With each about to embark on the next step up the ladder and embark on their professional baseball careers, both Blair and Easton said they will keep track of how the other progresses.
“Oh, absolutely!” Blair said. “You can bet I will be keeping tabs on Brandon and how he’s doing as he makes his way through the minors.”
“You can bet I will be watching how Zak does,” Easton said. “He’s a guy I will definitely be keeping track of from here on out.”
The fact they come from the same part of Ashtabula County and are about to become professional ballplayers and the enormity of that is not lost on either guy.
“Two guys from out in the country — Jefferson and PV — who would have thought it?” Blair said with a laugh. “It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your name is or how big you are.
“If you work your tail off — and are supported by great people — anything is possible and Brandon is proof of that, too.”
“Both of us come from the same place,” Easton said. “We’re probably separated by like 10 miles, our homes, and now look where we’ve ended up.
“I’ve worked so hard and I know, from everything I hear and read, Zak has, too. It really does prove that hard work does pay off. What a special day!”
Along those lines, how special would it be for Blair to step into the box with Easton on the mound — in the majors?
“That would be amazing!” Easton said. “Who’s to say it can’t or won’t happen?”
“How cool would that be?” Blair said. “Two guys representing Ashtabula County — the 4-4-0 — in the majors.
“It couldn’t get any better than that.”
McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.