The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 29, 2014

Sunny outlook

7 months after having Tommy John surgery, Zak Blair is excited about second season in Cubs’ system

Sports Editor

— It’s that time of year for Zak Blair and, with the sun shining bright in Mesa, Ariz., the former Jefferson and Mercyhurst star naturally wants to hit the ground running as he begins his second spring with the Chicago Cubs.

However, considering where he was just a few short months ago, the son of David and Carol Blair knows he is fortunate to be gearing up for a second season in the Cubs’ system.

For back on Sept. 23, he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow.

“The arm is getting there,” the 24-year-old, 5-foot-10, 190-pound second baseman said. “Some days are better than others.

“But it is a process and I have to remember, I’m only 7 months out of major elbow surgery.”

Toward that end, Blair can’t wait to get back on the horse, so to speak. Before he injured his elbow round the Fourth of July last season, Blair was having a banner first season in the Arizona League.

However, as he attempted to grit his teeth and play through the injury, one which would eventually take major surgery to repair, his numbers suffered. Blair played in 30 games before his season was cut short, getting 106 at-bats and finishing with a .226 batting average. 4 doubles, 1 triple and 17 RBI. He drew 10 walks, struck out only 7 times and pilfered 3 bags.

Now, though, well on the way to full recovery, Blair, a 20th-round selection by the Cubs in the 2013 June First-Year Player Draft, is enthusiastic as ever.

“I am doing well,” he said. “I was cleared 3 weeks ago to play, so right now, I am working on getting comfortable again and just having fun playing the game.”

Blair received a visit from an old friend and longtime supporter earlier this spring when Tim Mizer, his high school basketball coach at Jefferson, and his wife, Sue, visited him in Mesa.

“Seeing Coach Mizer was awesome,” Blair said. “We go way back and he helped me become the person I am today.”

Blair made it a point to say Mizer has played an important part of his development as a person.

“Coach Mizer is a great role model in my life,” Blair said. “He has supported me the whole way, from coaching me in basketball to writing me letters when I was an All-American back at Mercyhurst.

“Then, when I got drafted, and then taking time to meet up with me during spring training.

“It was nice to catch up with him.”

Blair is more than a bit excited to get back to the game he has always loved, which has become his life’s work.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to get out of Arizona and play for an affiliate,” he said.

The right-handed throwing, left-handed batting Blair most definitely considers himself extremely fortunate.

“I’m just thankful to be back on the field so soon,” he said. “It is truly a blessing... and a miracle.”