Calvert Hall graduate Pat Blair is determined to keep moving up the ladder in the Tampa Bay Rays' minor league system, even if that means playing every position he can.
Blair has played third base, shortstop, second and first and also pitched this season for Tampa Bay's high-level Single-A team, the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Florida.
Blair says he will even play the outfield or catcher if asked to by Charlotte manager Michael Johns.
“He is a manager's dream in terms of being able to put him anywhere,” Johns said. “We had to put him this year at first base, which was a position he wasn't real familiar with. We gave him a crash course and he's done a really nice job. We could throw him in the outfield and he would be fine. His versatility is the biggest thing.”
Blair has been promoted twice in his three-year professional career. The next step would be Double-A Montgomery in Alabama.
Tampa Bay drafted the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Blair in the 12th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft after a standout career at Wake Forest University, where he played shortstop.
“It's a lot easier to move a guy who is versatile than it is someone who is pigeon-holed at one position,” Johns said. “He certainly has given himself every opportunity to make that (Double-A) club next year.”
The 23-year-old Blair said he doesn't dwell on whether he will make it to Double-A.
“I am trying not to think about that,” Blair said. “The more you think about that, you start pressing. They really haven't talked to me about anything. We clinched a first-half playoff spot. I am just going to focus on winning the championship. That's the main focus I have right now.”
Blair does believe his versatility has boosted his value in the Tampa organization.
“My goal is to keep moving forward to the big leagues, and I think it helps you the more positions you play,” Blair said. “They almost always take the players from within their system. That's something the Rays' organization is huge on. They don't have the money to go out and get big names.”
Blair is batting .245 with three home runs, 17 doubles and 33 RBIs in 253 at-bats.
“I have been hitting pretty good the whole year,” he said.
Blair batted .252 in Single-A Bowling Green last year with three home runs, 32 RBIs, a .341 on-base percentage and 12 stolen bases in 391 at-bats.
That season came after an injury-plagued rookie year in Single-A Hudson Valley of the New York Penn League. He batted only .168 in 32 games.
“He is one of those guys that makes my job easier,” said Johns, who was also Blair's manager in Bowling Green. “He is one of those guys you can hit anywhere in the lineup. He can bat first, second or down in the order. He will get good at-bats every day. You have to find a way to get him in the lineup. He will help your team win.”
Blair appreciates playing for Charlotte. The travel involved for Bowling Green in Kentucky was difficult.
“Last year, we had eight, 10-hour bus trips,” Blair said. “I was really tired. We were the farthest away from anybody. We would go to Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. This year has been like a breeze. This year, in the Florida State League, the longest trip has been 2 1/2 hours.”
Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl isn't surprised by Blair's success. He won four Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships and was chosen as the Baltimore Sun's Baseball Player of the Year in 2008.
“He just did everything a little faster than everybody else, running and swinging the bat,” Eckerl said. “He had a strong arm and great range. He is just a natural.”