During a Sunday afternoon loss to the Seattle Mariners, recently called-up Oakland Athletics catcher Carson Blair reached a new peak after an eight-year minor league career.
When an injury to everyday catcher Stephen Vogt forced the All-Star’s absence, Blair was called in from the bullpen. The 25-year old strapped on the tools of ignorance and finished the game behind the plate.
With two innings of defensive work, and a walk to help fuel of a run-scoring rally, Blair added his name to the list of major league baseball players – a fraternity which includes less than 19,000 names since 1871, according to Baseball-Reference.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was impressed with the rookie’s poise in the position:
“Going behind the plate and having to deal with my signs, there’s a lot going on and things can speed up in your first big league game. I thought he handled himself really well.”
Thrust into a none-on no-out situation, Blair guided reliever Drew Pomeranz through a quick eighth inning. Despite solid work behind the dish, his most solid contribution to the game may have been his at bat in the bottom half of that same frame.
After falling behind against Seattle reliever Logan Kensing, the Argyle, Texas native battled back before taking a 3-2 curveball and drawing a gritty walk.
Melvin was impressed with the rookie’s patience:
“Usually you’re a little jumpy and antsy wanting to hit when you get up there for your first time up. To be able to draw a walk off a guy who can be pretty tough on righties means that he was processing everything.”
Since his debut Sept. 9, Blair has started three games behind the plate for Oakland, picking up his first and only big-league hit Monday against the Texas Rangers.
Blair credits his ability to remain calm in high-stress situations to being placed in them without preparation:
“I’ve always kind of done well when I get ambushed in a game. You just don’t think about it, you just go get hot, do what ever you need to and not think too much.”
A 35th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 amateur draft, the backstop has spent much of his career thus far battling for a place at the table. But in the past two seasons, Blair has gone from being a member of the high-A Salem Red Sox to being a September call up to the big club in what he calls “a pretty cool journey.”
In an eight-year minor league career, Blair posted a .242/.343/.420 slash line with 34 home runs and 166 RBIs. His most productive stop came this season with the Double-A Midland RockHounds, where he posted a .272 average with six homers and 29 RBIs in 55 games.
Though Oakland is a bit farther from his North Texas home than the four-hour drive from Midland, the rookie did have some family present for his debut:
“My mom and stepdad are here. My brother is here. So I have a few people that got to see it.”
He may not have allowed the euphoria of his debut to affect him, but he did admit to briefly feeling the excitement that accompanies the magnitude of his achievement – being one of a select group of people to ever put on a major league uniform:
“When they announce your major league debut. I kind of wish they wouldn’t have done that, like ‘aww this kid has never player before,’ that’s probably why I got all the sliders. It’s kind of cool, though, to hear all the congrats from the other team when they come to the plate. They all know it’s a special time in your career.”