July 9, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Change can be a good thing. It certainly was for Charlie Blackmon.
Blackmon was best known as a pitcher prior to arriving at Georgia Tech in 2007 after transferring from Young Harris Junior College in Young Harris, Ga., having led Mountain Lions to consecutive GJCAA State Championships.
He pitched and played the outfield just as he had at North Gwinnett High School.
Georgia Tech Head Coach Danny Hall decided Blackmon would fit perfectly for the Yellow Jackets…in the outfield.
Blackmon redshirted in 2007 then came up big in ’08, hitting for average (a team-high .396), and power (a .564 slugging percentage, with eight homers) in 62 games. HItting lead-off, he had an on-base percentage of .469, stealing 25 bases in 30 attempts and showed a keen batting eye, walking 20 times (vs. 21 strikeouts). He scored 68 runs, totaled 141 bases, with 12 doubles and three triples. Blackmon also showed his willingness to take one for the team, getting hit with 16 pitches. He led the team in average, hits, runs, doubles, triples and stolen bases.
Following that season, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the June Draft. Blackmon, who had twice been selected as a pitcher (on the 24th round of 2004 by the Florida Marlins and the 20th round in ’05 by the Boston Red Sox), chose to go pro after being selected by the Rox in the second round, but as an outfielder.
Over the next three seasons he tore up the minor leagues, hitting .338 with 96 hits in 68 games with the Tri-City Dust Devils (Short-A) in 2008, batting .307 with 169 hits in 133 games, including 34 doubles, seven triples and seven homers in ’09 at High-A Modesto Nuts, then batting .312 with 100 hits in 86 games, including 22 doubles, four triples and 11 homers with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers last year.
He started 2011 in with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, where he led the team with 19 doubles, 10 homers, 49 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 58 games.
Blackmon got the call up to the Majors on Jiune 8 and quickly made his mark, stealing a base in five straight games (June 11 through 15), as, according to Stats LLC, he became first player since 1946 (the first year game-by-game data was kept) to steal a base in five straight games within the first nine games of start of his career.
He had a career-high four-hit game on July 17 against Detroit, then, on July 1, celebrated his 25th birthday in grand style, hitting his first Major League home run, a pinch-hit blast in the eighth inning off Kansas City’s Joakim Soria.
Sting Daily caught up with the Warwick, Ga., native, who lives in Atlanta during the off-season, during the Rockies’ recent four-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. He talked about a number of subjects, including what he misses about Georgia Tech, what he doesn’t miss about pitching and how much he’ll be missing from his paycheck after paying for tickets for friends during the Braves series. (Unfortunately, Blackmon is likely headed to the disabled list, as he broke a bone in his left foot in the series finale).
STING DAILY: How does it feel to be back in Atlanta?
Charlie Blackmon: It’s awesome. It’s good to be back. I have a lot of friends and family coming to watch.
SD: How many friends and family have you had come in this series?
CB: Oh, man, I feel like in total I’ve had like 20 or so for a couple of nights. Maybe more. There are still definitely people coming. [Wednesday] is going to be big. My dad got a whole block of tickets, not to mention that I’m leaving a bunch of tickets for other people. There’s going to be a bunch of folks here.
SD: How much are you shelling out for tickets?
CB: The joke is I’m playing for free this week (laughs). But it’s nice for people who want to come see me to be able to get them tickets.
SD: How would you assess your first month as a Major Leaguer?
CB: It feels awesome to be here. Obviously, when you get here you understand why these guys are here, because they’re really good. It’s good to be here. I just want to make sure that I do well and stay here. I think there’s definitely an adjustment period for all young players and I’ve had a little bit of up and down already. But I think I’m starting to settle in a little more lately.
SD: Who was the first player you saw — teammate or opponent — that gave you a ‘Wow!’ moment?
CB: I don’t know. I made the comment to one of our pitchers the other day, It was one of the first series I was up here, I looked over and saw the visiting team playing catch before BP and I looked at my teammate and I go, ‘You know these are all the same guys from TV.’ He’s like, ‘Uh, yeah. I know that.’
SD: You got through the farm system really quickly. Was it like a blur for you?
CB: Not really. This was the first time I moved anywhere during the season. Each season I’d move somewhere and I stayed there for the whole year. So in that sense, I felt like I had plenty of time to get adjusted to each level and it didn’t seem like it flew by that fast. Those seasons get long down there.
SD: What is your favorite memory of playing at Turner Field with Georgia Tech?
CB: I remember getting a hit late in a game, maybe to score a run when we played Georgia off one of their better pitchers. I pulled a line drive into right field. It was kind of like last night as a matter of fact. That kind of stands out.
SD: Do you still keep in touch with Yellow Jackets teammates?
CB: I’ve got a few Tech teammates that are coming to watch, junior college teammates, high school teammates that are coming to watch.
SD: You missed Matt Wieters by a day. There seem to be lots of Tech guys coming through Atlanta?
CB: It’s nice to have Georgia Tech guys have so much success in pro ball.
SD: What are your favorite memories of Tech days?
CB: I definitely remember playing at the University of Georgia in the Regional. That was really exciting for me and when I first started, the very beginning was also really exciting for me because all of a sudden I’m changing positions and being a hitter now, and being successful. That was really exciting.
SD: Do you ever miss pitching?
CB: Yes. Definitely, I do. But I don’t miss a sore arm.
SD: Do you miss the prospect of pitching in what’s now your home field (Coors Field)?
CB: No. It’s tough there.
SD: You were drafted twice previously before being selected by Colorado. Did you ever regret passing on either of those first two selections?
CB: Not really. They didn’t get that serious with me. So it wasn’t that big of a deal. But the third time was definitely the charm. That was a blessing to get drafted a third time.
SD: How closely do you follow the Jackets during their season?
CB: Pretty close because I go work out there in the off-season. So I’m always meeting a lot of the younger guys that are still playing. So I follow them pretty close.
I see [Coach Hall] every off-season and talk with him. Occasionally I’ll send him a text or he’ll send me a text during the year.