Michael Blood took the mound on Monday night, one of several players from his Easton Tigers summer baseball team selected to play in the 18U All Star game. His inning lasted maybe 5 minutes tops as he quickly shut his opponents down and that was it. The end of his high school baseball playing days.
Michael may go on to pitch in club baseball down at Mizzou or perhaps play in another summer league. That’s still TBD. But for now, it’s a wrap.
What a fun ride it’s been.
Michael’s always had a love affair with baseball. And I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to be a part of it.
He’s had a glove and a bat in his hand (golf clubs, too) since he was old enough to walk. Even when it was coach pitch in those early days of CYC ball he could flat out hit and we had many a backyard session where we threw the ball around, eventually ending up with me calling balls and strikes for a couple of innings worth of pitches.
When Tom Jr. was going into 5th grade, he expressed a desire to pitch and we began getting lessons from a guy named Mike Killian. Michael got in on the action as well, learning the basics of the windup and throwing motion from a guy who once pitched in the Reds organization. The lessons took place in some empty warehouse in Fenton. I can still remember a few wild pitches bouncing off the aluminum siding walls with a clang.
But they both got better.
I coached Michael’s team from second grade through eighth grade and was always thrilled to have that opportunity. We had a great group of kids as well as parents and the majority of the team that we had in second grade were still on the team when we finished up in eighth. We went to the playoffs every year, finishing first or second in our league, capped off by our appearance in the City-County playoffs where we lost a heart-breaker to a St. Monica team that went on to win it all.
Michael was on the mound for a lot of those games but CYC wasn’t quite enough for him so he played on a team in the Kirkwood Athletic Association called the Redbirds and that was a whole different set of players, personalities and fun.
Thanks to Brad Bakula, the Redbirds took a trip to Cooperstown where we stayed in their Ballpark Village and endured a lot of rain but had a lot of fun, too. Michael quickly learned that there’s always someone out there trying to be better than him and that you had to work hard to succeed. The Redbirds won a lot of games but they lost quite a few, too – and that was a good thing. It teaches you that it’s just a game – and that there’s always another one waiting to be played so keep trying and keep on getting better.
By the time Michael made it to high school, competition had gotten tough and Michael’s growth curve was still waiting to begin. But he could still pitch. His form is great, thanks in large part to Matt Whiteside at All Star Performance. Michael had been going to Matt since 5th grade, beginning lessons every winter, always leading right up to the first week of practice.
In Michael’s freshman year, he made SLUH’s C team and pitched well. Next year he was on the B team and he did even better. But his junior year, there was an abundance of strong senior pitchers and Michael got cut from the Varsity. Rather than quit baseball altogether, he joined a summer league. He worked out regularly and beefed up. His fastball was in the mid 80s. His curve was wicked and his changeup could make batters look silly. When he went out for SLUH’s Varsity his senior year, he was the only player to try out who hadn’t been on the team the year prior.
He made the team and though I think he was underutilized, he still had a few shining moments and it was fun watching SLUH’s team win their district before being eliminated by Francis Howell in a state quarterfinal. This summer, he rejoined his Easton Tigers team from last year and became their number one guy, leading the team in wins, innings pitched and ERA and got a well-deserved nod to the league All Star game.
The game took place at TR Hughes ball park last night, home of the River City Rascals.
When the inning he pitched was over, I stood up, walked over to his coach and thanked him.
You’re an All Star, Michael Blood.
Now it’s on to bigger things.