Getting To Know: Nick Blasi, OF

Last season, the Oakland A's used their 12th round selection on a speedy outfielder from Wichita State. After signing with the A's, Nick Blasi was sent to short-season Vancouver, where he played regularly in the Canadians' outfield. This season, Blasi is plying his trade at low-A Kane County. recently caught up with Blasi to find out what he thinks of playing at Kane County, how he is improving in the field and on the bases and what his goals are for this season.

Nick Blasi knows a lot about the Midwest. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where he was a three-sport star at Goddard High School. He went on to Butler (KS) Community College and was an offensive star, hitting .368 his freshman season. Blasi was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 45th round in 2001, but he chose not to sign, instead returning for a sophomore season at Butler. He hit .410 with 10 homeruns his sophomore year and was a National Junior College All-American.

Blasi transferred to his hometown school, Wichita State University, after that sophomore season and immediately made an impact on the Shockers line-up. He hit .321 during his first season at Wichita and really came on during his second season. He earned second team All-Midwest Region Honors by hitting .366 with 10 homers, 21 stolen bases and a 1045 OPS. He also starred for the Alaska Gold Panners of the Alaskan Summer League in 2003. Blasi parlayed his collegiate career into being drafted by the Oakland A's in the 12th round in 2004.

Blasi's baseball career took him out of the Midwest when he headed to the Pacific Northwest to play for the Vancouver Canadians. Blasi hit .292 with a .382 on-base percentage for the Canadians. Unlike many collegiate players who struggle with the transition from aluminum bats to wooden bats, Blasi took to the wooden bats very quickly in Kane County.

"There is a major difference from the aluminum bat game to the wood bat game. There is less margin for error in the wooden bat game. Luckily, I played in the Alaskan Summar League [which uses wooden bats] and that game is very similar to the level of play you see at short-season. Playing in that league definitely helped me," Blasi said.

Blasi's strong season at Vancouver earned him a promotion back to the Midwest and the low-A Kane County Cougars to begin the 2005 season.

"Kane County is great. We've been averaging about 9,000 fans a game lately, and it is very exciting to play in front of big crowds like that," Blasi said.

So far this season, Blasi, like many of his Cougar teammates, has struggled a bit with the bat. However, he has brought a very valuable dimension to the Cougars' line-up all season: speed. Blasi has swiped 10 bags in 11 attempts in only 46 games.

"Last season [in Vancouver], they wouldn't let us steal, but this year they are encouraging us to steal and have been challenging me to get better at it," Blasi said. "I stole some in college, but I was never running as much as now. The coaches have been working with me to focus on what to look for when I steal a base, my footwork, etc., and I think I have been making improvements."

There is a lot more instruction during the minor league season then in the major league season. According to Blasi, a typical day at home in Kane County will begin early in the morning at the gym. He then heads to the ballpark by one o'clock for three or four hours of drills before preparing for that evening's game.

"It is baseball all of the time," Blasi said.

In addition to his running, Blasi has been working with the Kane County coaching staff on his throws from the outfield.

"We have been working on a lot of footwork and on transferring the ball from the glove to the throwing hand. I've thrown out two or three guys and had one where the guy was really out. Our coach got thrown out arguing the call and threw stuff all over the field," Blasi said with a laugh.

When Blasi and his Cougar teammates do find some time away from the ballfield, they often participate in another time-honored Midwest sporting tradition: bowling.

"When the team has down time, they have an informal bowling tournament. Ryan Ford is the best on the team. He is a serious bowler and has his own ball and everything," Blasi said.

The Cougars have a program to house their players with host families who live in Geneva, IL or its surrounding suburbs. This season, all of the Cougars are housed with host families, including Blasi.

"My family is great and their home is only about five minutes from the ballpark, so it is very convenient. It works out really well," Blasi said.

Despite his ties to the Midwest, Blasi is hoping to call the West Coast – more specifically Stockton – his home next season.

"My overall goal is to concentrate on my on-base percentage and my average. As long as I can improve at the same rate that the pitchers improve at as I move up, I think I'll be fine," Blasi said. "Since I wasn't a high draft pick, my goal is to try to advance one level each season. Anything more than that would be an added bonus."

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