In taking on this challenge to provide top-notch Padres’ content, I have been lucky enough to talk to numerous prospects. Many of these young men are excellent individuals, and their skills go far beyond the baseball field.
Of all the prospects I keep in touch with, young catcher Blake Hunt is quickly becoming one of my favorites to converse with.
The young man has an infectious craving for the game of baseball. He wants to get better. No. Scratch that. He doesn’t want to get better. He expects to get better because he is definitely putting in all the hard work. We share a love for the sport and we recently sat down and spoke for a few minutes about the game itself, his ailing shoulder, and his experience at the Futures Game a few weeks ago.
Blake had been nursing a sore shoulder since being selected by the Padres. He only managed three games behind the plate this season before being relegated to DH duties. My initial questions were about his shoulder and how he was presently feeling. “The shoulder is feeling a lot better. It’s been a little frustrating for me to not be able to get over this quickly. It takes time. In instructs I was on a throwing program. We have a solid program moving forward into the off-season.” Blake isn’t throwing right now, but hopes to pick up a ball in December and be pain-free. The Padres are surely anxious to see his defensive skills, as he is highly regarded in that area.
The conversation turned towards the Padres’ Futures Game, that Blake participating in. These games are an excellent opportunity for young players like himself to get their feet wet in a major league setting. Of course it isn’t the same thing as participating at the major league level, but for these young men to have the opportunity to play at Petco is certainly a great motivating factor for them in the future. This little taste of the major league life will certainly help in the hours upon hours of bus rides that these prospects have in front of them.
“It was a real cool experience to meet some of the fans before the game and get a taste of what it is like to be there (at Petco Park). It really makes you want it even more. The atmosphere was cool. The city and the stadium are breathtaking.” We talked a little about his time with new players in the system and the chance he had to mingle with them. He told me groups of guys hung out before and after the games on Friday and Saturday night. The players walked around the Gaslamp/Downtown area and build some quality relationships. These games were about far more than just playing the game of baseball. These men were given the opportunity to experience new things together and that will surely build everlasting chemistry. “I am really positive moving forward with the group of guys we got. This is going to be fun.” Isn’t that what the game is all about? You strip away all the business and politics of the sport, and having fun is at its very soul. The Padres are teaching these kids how to play the game correctly. The results will come.
I asked Blake if he was excited to see anyone he hadn’t seen before during these exhibition games. Jacob Nix was the first player he mentioned, as he has watched him from a far. The two have a slight history together and I learned about it. “I had obviously heard of Jacob Nix throughout the year. I thought it was pretty cool that he was able to start that game on Saturday. He grew up not too far from me, so we have a lot of the same roots. We know a lot of the same people, so it was kind of cool to meet him for the first time. We both have two trainers that work together in Southern California.” Blake hung out with Nix, in the dugout, after his Futures Game start. I’m sure he picked his brain a little bit, and that is just the type of player Blake Hunt is. He has a hunger for more knowledge in the game of baseball.
Blake and I started to discuss all the coaching in the Padres’ farm system. Again, the team has done things correctly in this regard. They have flooded their minor leagues with many different coaches, and with each comes a different style of teaching. A player like Blake Hunt has the ability to seek out many resources to gain knowledge about virtually any facet of the game. “It’s a blessing to have that many great minds around us.” He utilizes his coaches and gains knowledge from each one individually.
Blake is really itching to get behind the plate. He has been out of service defensively for just around three months and he craves the action that a catcher receives on game day. I asked him about his swing and how his shoulder has effected the mechanics behind it. “So far the shoulder hasn’t been an issue with the swing. My swing needed to be better. There are some holes in it presently. The quality of pitching is better, but I just have to work every day on getting consistent.” Again, no excuse from this young man. You know that his shoulder is ailing to some degree, but he will not use that as a reason to ease up. He is all about improving himself on the baseball diamond.
We spoke a little further about his swing and how the Padres have adjusted it slightly. The change was needed to alleviate some pressure on his shoulder, but also to help him stay in the zone longer and make better contact. “Getting into the muscle memory of the swing and how I needed to repeat it was a challenge. It was awkward and foreign at first, but I have grown into it and been able to utilize my power more. There is a lot less swing and miss in my game now and I will be able to barrel up baseballs more.” He has a better feel now with his swing and has made adjustments early. You have to admire him for his relentless quest to get better at his young age.
“As I am able to spring forward each year and develop, its great to take knowledge from each coach in my life and use that towards my game. Everything and anything I can take in from these advanced coaches is priceless. As a baseball player you want to keep growing and adapting as the game changes.” Blake understands that you can always learn and you can never be content with who you are as a player. Growth and adaptation are necessary for greatness and Blake Hunt is not one to settle.
We spoke about Johnny Homza, whom the Padres have recently turned into a catcher. The Alaskan ballplayer was an infielder and has reportedly made a relatively smooth transition to being behind the plate. “Me and Campy (Luis Campusano) work with him everyday. From day one to now, he has made great strides and is looking pretty good back there. He tells me that Homza has a good arm.” Interesting that the Padres went this route with Homza, but he has shown the intangibles to be able to do it.
Health is his main concern for the 2018 season. Blake Hunt would like to come into spring ball with a clean bill of health and an opportunity to really show what he has. He would love to start his pro career next April, but understands that he has minimal control over what happens. “I’m going to control what I can and make the best out of any situation that is before me.” It’s refreshing that he sets no personal goals at this point. As a catcher, he knows that you can only control certain aspects of the game. He will be prepared when his time comes and that is all you can ask from an 18-year-old in his first taste of pro ball.