Growing up, Terrence Turner-Blair wasn't like the other kids.
While others wanted to be the next Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning, he wanted to be the next Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr.
At this weekend's Big 26 Baseball Classic in Harrisburg, Pa., Turner-Blair again won't be like the other kids. Sure, the 52 high school baseball players from Maryland and Pennsylvania taking the field for the three-game series are all pursuing baseball careers. But Turner-Blair (Northwestern) is the only participant from Baltimore.
"To be the only one to come out of Baltimore City, that means a lot to me," Turner-Blair said. "There are not a lot of kids out there that try to actually go out of their way and do things and try to become better. Some kids, they're just lazy, they don't like to work."
That's not Turner-Blair, though. His coach at Northwestern, Faheem Hammett, calls Turner-Blair the hardest worker on his team.
Turner-Blair has played baseball since age 6. Basketball and football were too mainstream for him.
"Not too many people like baseball; more people enjoy playing football or basketball, but I've always enjoyed playing baseball more," Turner-Blair said. "I've always been better at baseball, too.
"I used to see professionals when I used to watch baseball games or go to baseball games, and when I saw them play, it convinced me to play and it convinced me to work harder and try because I want to play baseball at the next level. I want to become something, someone to remember in baseball."
He's off to a good start.
The star player at Northwestern, Turner-Blair, a rising senior assumed a leadership role on the team last season, his first since moving to Baltimore from Oakland, Calif.
If teammates slacked in the outfield while Hammett ran infield drills, it was Turner-Blair who trotted out to the grass to get them back on task. It was Turner-Blair motivating others, trying to get maximum effort.
"I had a couple seniors I was looking at as leaders, but he helped guide the team as a junior," Hammett said. "I was like, 'This is my leader right here, this is who I'm going to take as a captain.' "
Because of injuries, Hammett was forced to play Turner-Blair in numerous different positions last season. He caught, pitched and sometimes played shortstop.
Three positions, yet none was the one Turner-Blair coveted: center field.
But Turner-Blair never complained; he was just happy to be able to help the team. And help it he did.
As Hammett recalls, Turner-Blair reached base safely in every at-bat for the season's first five games.
"When I saw that, I knew this was something good," Hammett said. "The first time I watched him play, he had a different type of swag about him, he just walked differently than everybody else."
What did they mean by "swag"? Turner-Blair's happy-go-lucky personality, his ever-confident demeanor.
It's a style he models after his favorite player, Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds.
"I like the way he plays — he plays with a lot of style," Turner-Blair said of his idol.
Phillips' charisma and the flashiness he displays on the base paths or while approaching ground balls are what attracted Turner-Blair to Phillips.
This weekend, Turner-Blair will get the chance to show his own flash from center field, where Maryland coach Larry Prange plans to play Turner-Blair.
And that opportunity will come in front of a larger crowd than Turner-Blair is accustomed to.
Turner-Blair anticipates that part of that crowd will be college scouts he needs to impress in order to fulfill his dream of playing college baseball. Turner-Blair said he has not yet been approached by colleges.
The kid isn't worried, though.
"I'm not really that nervous," Turner-Blair said. "I know I'll do good as long as I play and act like myself."
Md. rosterPos.Name High schoolClassOFMichaelAbbottSt Mary's2014MIFBrockAntognoniOakdale2014PKennyArmingerSt Mary's2014PEricBrodkowitzWinston Churchhill 20143BDanielBrunoCatonsville2015MIFIsaiahChambersBishop McNamara20141BPeterCrawfordMount St. Joseph2014PChaseGorskiSt. Mary's2014MIFKevinHeissArchbishop Spalding 2015PJackHennessyGonzaga2014CJordanHinkleBishop McNamara2015PTylerHoffmanWalkersville20143BChaseHoffmanMiddletown2014CRyanHorsemanHarford Tech2014CRyanHowardWalkersville20141BMIchaelHubbardWinston Churchill2014OFGabeMaymonWalkersville2014OFBrianMcCourt Jr.Huntingtown2015MIFBenPradaDeMatha2014PAJRobinsonArundel2015PDavidStaufferWalkersville2014OFMaxSteinhornWalt Whitman2014PJeremyStewartC. Milton Wright2014OFZachThibodeauWinston Churchill2014OFTerrenceTurner-BlairNorthwestern2014PGarrettWilesLinganore2014Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun