Dalen Blair worked out with his brother Drew in the batting cages before the Midwest Athletics’ game last Saturday at Belton High School. Neither one played in the A’s 11-3 victory over the Baldwin City Blues, but the brothers still shared some rare baseball time together.
And that, Blair said, is one of the most enjoyable things about his summer.
“It’s kind of awesome,” Blair said. “Us being four years apart, it’s kind of hard to get on the same team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing to get on the same team with my brother.”
Drew Blair, who just completed his senior year playing for Rockhurst University, was what brought Dalen to the A’s and the college-level Mid-Plains League. It’s an opportunity for younger brother to join big brother and a chance to get a first glimpse at college play after finishing a standout career at Lee’s Summit High School.
Blair, a right-hander, went 11-4 his senior year with a 2.20 ERA. He had a 6-1 record in Suburban Gold Conference games and struck out 68 with 21 walks in 61 1/3 innings, making him the ace on a 23-11 Tigers squad that made its first state tournament appearance since 2005. Earlier this month, he was named first-team All-State in Class 5 by the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association.
“It was an awesome season,” said Blair, who is the Tigers’ first all-state pitcher since Jordan Knutson in 2013. “It was a very fun time and unforgettable experience going to state, that doesn’t happen very much. Being all-state is great, but it’s a team game.”
Lee’s Summit baseball coach Jim Mellody calls Blair a “pure pitcher,” one who effectively outthinks hitters with a variety of pitches and speeds. But Mellody believes Blair has another distinct advantage – his slight frame. Just over 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing around 130 pounds, Blair doesn’t exactly look that intimidating on the mound.
“When you see him he looks like a sixth-grader,” Mellody said. “Other teams get excited when they see him take the mound because he doesn’t look like a pitcher, and then the next thing you know six innings have gone by and you’ve got maybe one run and you’re losing.”
Blair takes no offense at this assessment. In fact, he’s happy to have opposing hitters underestimate him.
“Baseball’s a mind game,” Blair said. “I use that to my advantage. I can just catch the team off-guard.”
A late addition to the A’s, Blair hasn’t seen much playing time yet this season. He threw three scoreless innings in a come-from-behind victory over Liberty June 16, and he expects to see more action before the season ends in July, especially if the A’s keep leading the Mid-Plains League’s East Division and make the postseason. Then he’s off to play college ball at Briar Cliff University in Iowa.
Until then, Blair will make the most of his summer with the A’s and his brother.
“These guys like to mess around and have fun,” Blair said. “But we’re still playing the game and having a fun time doing it.”
Pleasant Hill had three players from its Class 4 state tournament team receive all-state honors. Named to the second team were outfielder Blake Beagle and James Barnes at designated hitter/utility and Jackson Caley as an honorable mention catcher. Harrisonville’s Lane Powers was named a second-team catcher and Joe Snooks was an honorable mention infielder.
Summit Christian Academy had four players selected first-team All-State in Class 3: pitcher Will Finch, catcher Luke Moehle, outfielder Matthew McWilliams and Eli Rash at DH/Utility.
Justin Root of Lee’s Summit North was named a second-team infielder in Class 5.