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Jabari Blash: Story and Interview

In our latest feature we take a look at Mariners prospect Jabari Blash, his story is unlike most. As a youngster growing up on the island of Saint Thomas, Blash did not love to play the game of baseball, in fact his mom made him play.

Photo - Chris Harris

jblashbio Team: Seattle Mariners

Twitter:  @jabariblash

Height: 6′ 5″, Weight: 224 lb.

Born: July 4, 1989 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Drafted:  Seattle Mariners in the 8th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft

Favorite Player: Did Not Have One

The Jabari Blash Story

Growing up in North America, many children watch and play their favorite sports. The same can be said for those in the baseball hotbeds in South America as well. Many youngsters grow up idolizing the players of today and yesterday in their favorite sports hoping that one day they will become like their hero’s. For Jabari Blash, his story is unlike most. As a youngster growing up on the island of Saint Thomas, Blash did not love to play the game of baseball. In fact his mom actually made him play. In our latest feature, we tell the story of Jabari Blash, who has transformed himself from a disinterested little leaguer into one of the top power hitting prospects in the game of baseball today.

Saint Thomas, a part of the US Virgin Islands is a major tourist destination. With thousands of vacationers from around the world traveling there each week, tourism is its number one industry. Over the course of the last twenty years, playing the game of baseball has fallen far down on  list of programs being allocated money. While the island in years past did boast pee wee and little league programs it was not like the programs youngsters have in the continental United States. Jabari Blash played in these programs as a child, largely due to his mothers influence. As he got older, Blash lost interest in the game of baseball as he focused on other activities and events.

That all changed a little over five years ago when Darren Canton started a baseball program on the Virgin Islands. Canton founded the Virgin Island Future Stars, a program to not only teach the fundamentals of baseball to those on the island but also improve their skills enough that they may one day have an opportunity to play baseball at the college or professional level. Jabari Blash is among the first group of athletes to do just that.

Canton showcased Blash and others for scouts at the amateur and professional level, there was immediate interest. Even though Blash had only played in a handful of games as a teenager the Chicago White Sox selected him in the 29th round of the 2007 MLB draft. Blash knew that he was not ready for the professional game, but it opened his eyes to what could be in his future. From that point on, Blash began to work even harder at understanding all aspects of the game. He knew he could throw a baseball and also hit one but he had to learn all the ins and outs of the game if he wanted to be a complete player.

Blash went on to play baseball at the college level at Miami Dade Community College. Playing on a regular basis for the first time, Blash began to work on those skills taught to him by Canton. Even though his skills were still raw, scouts continued taking an interest in Blash. Standing at 6’5, Blash possesses many tools that scouts drool over. During his first year at Miami Dade, Blash hit .353 in 102 at bats flashing the easy ability to reach base. With only one season under his belt, the Texas Rangers selected Blash once again in the draft. This time he was selected in the 9th round. The young outfielder opted to yet again stay in school working on his education not only in the class room but on the baseball field. As he continued to work hard at all aspects of his game, scouts continued to monitor Blash with hopes that he would play professional baseball the following season.

During his sophomore campaign at Miami Dade, Blash continued to hit, batting .341 over the course of the spring season. In 2010 the Seattle Mariners became the third team to draft Blash. They also became the last signing him to a professional contract before the negotiation period came to an end. The Mariners quickly wanted to see what they had in Blash and assigned him to Pulaski of the Appalachian League. Playing 32 games in right field, Blash hit a respectable .266 and got on base at a .362 clip in his rookie campaign. He also showed some of that power potential scouts talked about, hitting five home runs in 109 at bats.

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Blash spent all of the 2012 season with the LumberKings

As the 2011 season got underway the Mariners promoted Blash to their Northwest League affiliate, the Everett AquaSox. The Mariners tested Blash’s abilities at all three outfield positions to start the season. While making some adjustments in the field, Blash settled in just fine at the plate. In 57 games with the AquaSox, Blash hit .292, belted 11 home runs, and earned himself a promotion to the Mariners single A affiliate in the Midwest League. Facing tougher competition playing for the Clinton Lumberkings, Blash did not replicate his first half at the plate. In 124 at bats with the Lumberkings, Blash hit .218 although he showed a patient approach at the plate and finished the season with an obp .401.

Seattle opted to start the outfielder back at Clinton to start the 2012 season and allow him to adjust and continue to develop his skills. Only in his second full season of professional baseball, Blash was competing with and against others who had played the game non stop since the age of six. Blash spent all of 2012 with the Lumberkings and flashed skill and power during the season. He connected with 15 home runs and drove in 50 runners. He also continued to show his patience at the plate drawing 60 walks on the season. Blash hit .245 on the year but he got on base at a rate of .355 and had an ops of .787.

The Mariners assigned Blash to their advanced A level team in the California League to start the 2013 season. With the High Desert Mavericks Blash has done nothing but bash the baseball. With 13 home runs on the season, he has been in a battle for the league lead in home runs. An early season injury cost him some at bats or he could be running away with the home run title as we speak. In just 163 at bats this season, Blash has connected on a home run once every 12.5 at bats. He has also hit for average, currently .292 on the season as we inch towards the seasons halfway mark. Blash is at or near the top in many offensive categories in 2013.

Will the Mariners keep Blash in High Desert for the remainder of the 2013 season, or will they promote him to their double A team in Jackson? Only time will tell but we will continue to follow Jabari’s incredible path from Saint Thomas to the major leagues all season long. Please give Jabari a follow on Twitter @jabariblash and follow us at @CTD_Sypien and like us on Facebook in order for you to stay updated on Jabari all season long and into the future.

Seven Questions with Jabari Blash

1. Growing up in the Virgin Islands – What is the overall baseball culture like on the island of Saint Thomas?

Baseball gets played about four months out of the year and it starts off with pee wee and little league.  The Virgin Islands is a big tourist Island so money does not really go toward baseball. Sports are not a big thing in the Virgin Islands. I played pee wee league and little league. I never really aspired to become a major league player though. It was something that my mom kinda made me do.

2. Before you played college baseball in Florida. What do you athletes like yourself need to do to get discovered in Saint Thomas?

After little league I lost some interest and was just focusing on school. I stopped playing baseball completely for a while. Darren Canton ran some clinics, he came back from New York and started baseball again for the kids. Once you got to a certain age there really was no baseball. A couple of friends of mine convinced me to go to the clinics and work out. It was like going to practice a few days a week. I went to some showcases as well and got the attention of some colleges and professional scouts. At that time I realized that baseball could be something for me in my future.

3. You were drafted three times. Not many professional baseball players can say that! Each time you were selected was it a hard decision to either sign or stay in school?

When I was drafted in high school, I really didn’t play in the many games and I really did not know the game of baseball that well. So it wasn’t a hard decision to move on to College. That way I could continue to learn the game and get better. I knew that I needed more time learning the game before I could even think about playing professional baseball.

4. When you started your professional career in 2010 what was the hardest part of your transition to the professional game?

Really just continuing to learn the game of baseball. I was still pretty raw when the Mariners selected me so just some simple things like learning to run the bases, throwing the ball to the right place. Being a big guy I had some power and a good arm but I didn’t have a sound swing. Baseball is just as much mental as physical so I had to keep learning in every aspect of my game.

5. What do you consider your biggest strengths as a baseball player?

My strength is as a hitter. I feel like I can do some damage with the bat but I can also hit for average.

6. What do you need to work on in your game to advance to the next level?

I keep trying to be a student of the game since I have not played as much baseball as many of my teammates and others in the league I play in. I am really working hard at it but It is crucial for me to improve and I think I’m continuing to catch on.

7. You are off to a great start this year hitting .293 with 13 home runs already.  What is your top moment so far this season?

I hit four homers in about a five game stretch this season. I wasn’t really doing anything special. I was just seeing the ball. It was very exciting cause It showed me what I am capable of.

A Few For Fun

1. Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?

A few years ago I could not even name maybe twenty players in the major leagues. That is how far away from the game of baseball and my thoughts of playing baseball were a few years ago.

2. Who is the biggest prankster you have come across in the Mariners system?

The one guy I’d say is my teammate Stephen Shackleford. I’d like to have with me every step of the way. Not only because he is funny, but also for the way he is as a ball player and as a teammate. He is just a fun guy to be around.

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Steven Shackleford at his best! (from @Sshack17 twitter account)

3.  When you first got on twitter, you shared a picture of you and a Buffalo on the baseball diamond. Can you share that story of what that was about with everyone?

Being from the Virgin Islands, I’ve actually never saw a Buffalo in person. I’ve seen them on TV but not on a baseball field. We were on the field shooting a commercial and all of a sudden we see this huge animal. It’s too big to be a horse, it’s too big to be a cow and everyone was like what is that. I’m a big dude but the buffalo was huge! I’m not going to lie I was terrified. Then this man jumped on top of it! We had to stand around while they filmed this commercial. It was one thing to see a buffalo but on a baseball field! I’m still amazed as to why they decided to have the buffalo on the baseball field. It was certainly something to see.

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Blash and The now famous Buffalo!

A special thanks to Jabari for taking some time out of his schedule to answer some questions for us.  Although we had a tough phone connection we made it work. I also would like to thank Jabari for providing the “Buffalo Picture” for the story. We look forward to following him all season long and into the future. Please give Jabari a follow on twitter @jabariblash and like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to feature and follow all of our featured players as they chase their way to the major leagues.

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