MU's Blair eager to start journey
HUNTINGTON — As a kid former Marshall University ace pitcher Aaron Blair traveled four hours to Chase Field in Phoenix with his father, Craig Blair, to attend major league baseball games at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Growing up in Las Vegas, Chase Field was the closest venue to the Blairs and their love for the game warranted the trip.
As a spectator, the younger Blair sat in the stands and dreamed of a day when he would take the mound in a major league park.
Blair’s dreams took one step closer to reality Thursday and, in turn, he might get a completely new view of Chase Field in the future after the Diamondbacks selected him No. 36 overall in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“It’s only four-and-a-half hours from where I live,” Blair said. “I’ve been to their stadium three or four times just to watch games so it’s cool to be a part of the organization. I’m just glad its them.”
Blair spoke about the MLB Draft and how one surprise pick can alter the entire round of drafting for teams, so he just tried to stay positive and keep an open mind.
However, there might have been a bit of foreshadowing to the Diamondbacks’ selection when Blair and his dad made yet another trip to Phoenix.
This one was a bit different, though, as the Blairs were meeting with some of the higher-ups in the Arizona organization.
“A week ago Thursday, my dad and I went to their training complex, met the scouts, general manager and saw everything,” Blair said. “We just kind of talked about baseball and how I ended up at Marshall and if I liked it. They got me there to get to know me a little bit better.”
It was Blair’s only visit to a big league facility. He said getting a feel for each other likely helped in the draft process.
Now, the 6-5, 220-pound right-hander is eager to finalize a contract and get his professional baseball career underway.
Blair said the two sides had not yet talked contract, but he expected no difficulties.
“Since (Saturday) is the last day of the draft, they are getting through that,” Blair said. “They will talk to me and my adviser and I’ll be playing soon.”
While Blair is excited to start his future with the Diamondbacks’ organization, he also was reminiscent as he officially closed the Marshall chapter of his baseball life.
The story between Marshall and Blair is interesting to say the least.
It isn’t every day a college program with essentially no baseball field can lure a high-end prospect such as Blair, who was chosen in the 21st round of the MLB Draft by the Houston Astros in 2010, to come 2100 miles and 30 hours from home.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened and Blair explained why while crediting Marshall baseball coach Jeff Waggoner and his staff.
“I tell everyone, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change it,” Blair said of the decision to attend Marshall. “Out of high school, I didn’t have that many offers. When I went on my visit, I just loved it here.
“Since high school, I’ve matured physically and mentally. My fastball velocity has improved and I’m getting smarter with pitches. (Marshall pitching) Coach (Joe) Renner has done a great job. Each year, you could see progress that I made and hopefully it continues.”
Blair also spoke of how unique his experiences at Marshall have been and that helps his transition to the next level.
According to Blair, the adversities he faced at Marshall — such as no home field and riding a bus to home games up to two hours away — will go a long way toward helping him ascend through the minor leagues.
“Being on a bus all the time — even traveling for home games — that will help me out in pro ball,” Blair said. “Not having a home field didn’t necessarily help me, but it does give me an advantage for road games in pro ball, too.”
Blair finished the 2013 season at 5-5 overall with a 2.85 earned run average. In 82 innings, he allowed 59 hits and 26 earned runs while walking 36 and striking out 84.
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