Without even stepping on the diamond in an Illinois State Redbirds jersey, junior infield transfer Braedon Blackford has made an impact on a field in Normal.
But instead of that being at Duffy Bass Field, it was the Corn Crib for the Prospect League All-Star game festivities. Blackford, a member of the Layfette Aviators, was selected as an all-star and to competed in the home run derby, for his exceptional summer league season.
This season Blackford has been a rock for the Aviators lineup. Appearing in 45 of the 46 games this season, Blackford carries a slash line of .296/.393/508.
During the long minor league like summer league season, Blackford finds ways to keep his game crisp.
“Really I have just tried to take every day one game at a time with this long season. I try to work out when I can just to keep my body fresh,” Blackford said. “And I just try to have fun, if you are playing baseball and not having fun you are not doing it right.”
That season propelled Blackford to Normal for the All-Star break. On Monday, June 22, Blackford took part in the home run derby. As the final hitter to step up in the first round, Blackford knew what he needed to move on. Blackford had only one and a half minutes to reach that goal.
With a short right-field fence, Blackford came into the first round with a game plan.
Blackford started the round watching the first couple of pitches, before finally ripping one out of the short right-field fence. With the round progressing and still with only one long ball, Blackford called his lone timeout.
With only 30 seconds left on the clock, Blackford knew he would have to put into gear to move on to round two.
“When I called the timeout I had only one home run I knew I needed a couple more. I told coach let’s put on a show the last 30 seconds,” Blackford said.
Coming out of the timeout Blackford kept his word and blasted three home runs in that 30-second span.
“Well, I found some barrels and was able to move on.”
Despite having more home runs in the second round (six), Blackford was unable to move on. His combined 10 fell behind Cape Catfish Andrew Stone (17), Normal Cornbelter Canyon McWilliams (16) and West Virginia Miner Matt Rubayo (13).
Just weeks into the Prospect League season, Blackford announced his intent to sign with the Illinois State Redbird baseball team. This comes after spending the previous year at Carl Sandberg College. In his sophomore season there, he finished with a slash ling of .293/.424/.436.
Once it came time to choose to transfer the choice was not hard for the Peoria native.
“Coach Holm and what they did this year was very attractive to me, I play with a kid from ISU and everything he told me about ISU is something I wanted to be a part of,” Blackford said. “When the time came it was an easy decision for me. Everyone in the program is full of great character and I want to be a part of it and add to it.”