By: Jeff Roberson
Tate Blackman needed a break, so he took one. He had played a lot of baseball the past few years. So this summer he decided not to.
It's not a break from working out or conditioning, just from the actual games. As much fun as baseball has been for him for years, it was time for some time off.
“For most players, if you didn’t get a lot of playing time, you probably would go off and play summer ball,” said the rising junior. “But like Colby (Bortles) and me, we played every game. And I played summer ball last year. So I talked to (assistant) Coach (Mike) Clement about staying in Oxford and working out.
“Playing baseball year’ round, your body needs a break every now and then. So I’m here to work out and get stronger. Strength (Coach) Ben (Fleming) has me on an eating plan to lose some weight. Eggs in the morning. Chicken, string beans, broccoli for lunch. Zucchini and sausage for dinner. I’m trying to lose some and get down to a certain weight, and then put on some good muscle.”
And that’s what Blackman continues to do this summer in Oxford.
There are some other Rebels who are here. David Parkinson, Connor Green, James McArthur, Ryan Olenek, and Andrew Pagnozzi join Blackman as baseball players who chose to be at Ole Miss this summer.
The new class of players has now arrived for the second semester of summer school. So baseball players dot the campus, even though some are still playing summer baseball or working out elsewhere.
“The coaches thought it was a good idea for me to be around for the new guys, show them the ropes and teach them,” Blackman said. “Hit with them. Break them in a little bit. Let them get used to what we do every day.”
But all the while working on his own game and improving his skills to be the best he can be to help his Ole Miss team in 2017.
"I want to work on my defense more. I am doing yoga to get lower and work on my hips and more lateral movement. Also working on base-running and base-stealing. I need to steal more bases. I want to get faster, more explosive so I can steal more bases, have more range, and be more flexible, so my defense will be better.”
Yoga? According to Blackman he has experienced that before, and it helped.
“I did that in high school. I liked it a lot. It kept my body loose, my hips loose. Did some breathing exercises. Keeps your mind loose, and it soothes you. Maybe it will help with (staying away from) injuries, too. And being able to get lower to make less errors.”
In June, Ole Miss was eliminated from its own NCAA Regional. Blackman, through two seasons, has yet to experience a victory in the NCAA postseason. He believes that trend will end next season.
“That one timely hit for us. That was what we needed,” Blackman said. “Utah and Tulane against us, they both got those hits. Had we done that, we could have been on top.”
But the season ended too soon for the Rebels. And now Blackman, who was eligible at 21 years old for this June’s draft, returns for a third season of Ole Miss baseball.
“I had a number that I was asking for. I didn’t get it, and now I get to come back to play in Oxford with the best fans, best team, best coaches for another year,” he said. “I was only a sophomore, and I have my junior year to get drafted again.
“I’m very excited about next season. You can’t go wrong being here. It’s definitely been a fun time for me here.”