Lakewood Spotlight: Jake Blalock

<center><b>This is a free preview of our premium content.</b></center><br> Jake Blalock has basically done everything that the Phillies have asked of him. He has learned to play a new position and has done a decent job defensively. At the plate, he has truly started to blossom into the type of hitter that the Phillies always thought he would be and is garnering more and more recognition. Plus, he's playing a big part in the second-half turnaround of the Lakewood BlueClaws.

Jake Blalock was basically surrounded by baseball as a kid. His father and uncle were well regarded baseball instructors and his uncle, Sam Blalock, wound up being Jake's high school baseball coach. Plus, Hank Blalock, Jake's brother, was highly scouted and is now on his way to a big career with the Texas Rangers. It also didn't hurt that Blalock attended Rancho Bernardo High School, which boasts one of the stronger high school baseball programs in the country. How strong was it when Blalock was there? Well, just consider that one of his teammates was Cole Hamels. The Phillies were lucky enough to get both of them in the 2002 Draft.

"The influence of having Hank in my life has been great. We're both supportive of each other and he's been able to help me a lot in coping with everything," said Blalock. The two are very close and spend the off-season working out together and talking baseball. "It was so great to see him win the all-star game and I just always get excited when he does well, because we're so close." As a high school player and even now, most scouts believe that Jake Blalock can put up bigger numbers than his older brother has in Texas. As for Cole Hamels, Blalock loves the fact that the two were drafted together into the same organization. "I remember on draft day thinking how great that was going to be. I couldn't wait to get out there. High school was great and then to have the chance to go into pro ball with Cole was cool."

Hamels played shortstop in high school and most scouts didn't really feel that he needed to change positions in the pros. They felt he had enough ability to handle the position in the minors and figured that his work ethic would certainly make up for any potential shortcomings. Still,when the Phillies announced their selection of Blalock, they had him listed as a third baseman. Before long though, he was on the move again, this time to the outfield. "I don't worry too much about where I play. It's an adjustment, but I've always felt that you just have to deal with it and do what you can to make it work," said Blalock. Apparently, the adjustment hasn't been too tough because Blalock has developed into a solid outfielder and has made just four errors all season. The Phillies have decided to send Blalock to the Florida Instructional League for some more work in the outfield and they figure he has the skills to become a true asset defensively.

In his first two professional seasons, the Phillies kept Blalock in short-season leagues, figuring that he needed to develop slowly, at least at first. Offensively, he didn't tear up either the Gulf Coast League or New York – Penn League, hitting a combined .246 with six homeruns. In his first full-season test at Lakewood this year, the offense has shown up. "I didn't worry about the numbers too much. You just go out and work hard and the numbers will take care of themselves. It's definitely been more fun at the plate this season because I've had more success, but it's all a matter of just putting things together and adjusting." Blalock has set a new Lakewood team standard for doubles in a season (37) surpassing Scott Youngbauer's record of 35 set back in 2001. He's also third in homeruns in a season with 16, trailing Ryan Howard (19) and Juan Richardson (22) and his 85 RBI trail Ryan Howard's team mark of 87 set two seasons ago, although Blalock isn't all about setting records. "It's nice to set a mark like that, but in the long run, no one's going to remember it. It's just all about doing what you can to help the team win and making yourself as good as you can possibly be," said Blalock.

Blalock's 16th homerun of the season Monday night helped the BlueClaws to another record. Lakewood has now won seven straight, the longest winning streak in franchise history. That streak is part of a turnaround that has Lakewood nine games over .500 in the second half, 5 ½ games out of first in the Northern Division. "I think we're all just pulling together as a team. There's no set hero for us, we all just contribute what we can and if one guy doesn't get it done, another one picks him up," explained Blalock.

The potential for Blalock is through the roof. It's likely that had he stayed at third base, the comparisons to Scott Rolen could be flying around Blalock's every move. With the struggles of other third base prospects in the organization, the comparisons could still grow with the thought of Blalock moving back to third at some point. For now though, the Phillies say that they're done moving Blalock around and that they figure to keep him in the outfield. Of course, plans do tend to change from time to time. Whatever the plans, Blalock is okay with them as long as he gets to reach the majors. "I think I'll get there, it's just a matter of time. Between now and then, I'm just enjoying playing and working hard and everything else just falls into place."

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