Baseball: Blake Perry happy to be a headliner at Morse baseball camp
Blake Perry tosses to a young player drill Saturday during a camp featuring local minor-leaguers Perry and Patrick Cooper at Morse Baseball Academy. (Mike Marsee / December 30, 2012)
Perry said he always looked for the names of college or pro players who were appearing at the baseball camps he attended as a youngster, but on Saturday he was one of the players the kids were coming to see.
Perry and Patrick Cooper, the only two area athletes currently playing professional baseball, held a one-day camp at Morse Baseball Academy where they led drills, talked about their experiences in the minor leagues and signed autographs for 21 boys.
Perry said he enjoyed the chance to spend time with the kids, but he said it seemed odd to be one of the featured attractions.
“I guess I haven’t really thought about that, being one of the guys on the flyer,” Perry said. “ I always used to look at the flyer, saying, ‘Oh, this guy’s going to be here.’ I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Both Perry and Cooper took lessons from instructor Paul Morse when they were younger, and both said they were glad to give back, even in a role they’re not yet used to.
“I remember when I was their age, I was signing up for every one of these things,” Cooper said. “It’s interesting, its humbling. It seems like it was just a week ago that I was here doing one of these camps with Paul. That’s the cool part, to be the one that’s helping them and to make a big impression on them.”
Cooper, a 2007 Boyle County graduate, has spent three seasons in the Detroit Tigers’ organization; Perry, who played for Boyle before going to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year, has been in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system for the same amount of time.
Perry declined a scholarship offer from Kentucky to turn pro after the Diamondbacks selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 amateur draft. He moved out of the short-season leagues for a time last season, only to be sent back to Yakima, a short-season Class A team, after struggling with control in a short stint at low-A South Bend.
That could make the coming season something of a watershed year for the 6-5 right-hander, who is still only 20 years old. He said he thinks he’ll start the season in South Bend, though his goal is to get to the Diamondbacks’ high-A team at Visalia.
“I want to show them that I’m ready to break with a full-season team since I didn’t do that last year, and show them that my rough spurt in South Bend was just kind of a fluke deal, and hopefully I can pitch well there and move up later in the season,” Perry said. “South Bend is probably realistic, but my goal is to break with Visalia, and if I don’t break with them, that’s hopefully where I finish.”
Perry was 0-1 with a 6.10 earned-run average in six appearances at South Bend last season, walking 19 batters in only 13 1/3 innings. But he settled down back at Yakima, where he finished the 2011 season and where he went 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA and 17 walks in 68 1/3 innings.
He said his stuff was the same at both stops, but his confidence was not.
“I struggled a little bit in South Bend and just kind of got down on myself, and then went to Yakima and had a pretty good outing there my first one. And then the second one it was kind of back to the same old deal as in South Bend, I kind of struggled a little bit. But I got my confidence back and went on just a tear after that,” he said.
Opponents hit just .207 off Perry in his 13 games at Yakima. He went 4-1 in his last 10 starts, finishing with a win in final start in which he allowed one run on three hits in five innings.
“I finished up really good,” he said. “They told me, ‘Just gain weight, keep progressing the way you’re doing and you’ll be fine.’ They didn’t really tell me where I’d go or what they have planned for me, but just, ‘Get stronger, gain weight, do your best and go from there.’”
He said he has put on about 10 pounds in the offseason to weigh about 205, up from 180 at the time he was drafted.
“It’s starting to get a little easier (to put on weight), but it’s still tough for me being tall and lanky. But it’s starting to get a little easier the older I get,” he said. “Mom cooks home meals, and all I do is eat now.”
He said getting to eat the kind of meals he can’t get during the season is helping him put on pounds.