Michael Blackwood JR – D1 Commit and BU-Lifer
Author: Joey Johnston – Steinbrenner High School infielder Michael Blackwood Jr., seemed genuinely stumped when asked to identify his best quality as a baseball player.
“Really hard to say,’’ he said.
Baseball IQ? Versatility? Defensive fundamentals? Instincts? Winning contributions?
How about … all of the above?
Blackwood, seasoned by his training with Baseball University, has proven to be a valuable commodity by anyone’s measure. And while we’re identifying Blackwood’s positive qualities, don’t overlook this feature.
Determined to find the right fit at the NCAA Division I level, Blackwood located the perfect spot. He has committed to Central Connecticut State University. The baseball is good and the geography is ideal. Blackwood’s parents are from Winchester, Mass., and he has waves of family in the New England region.
He’s also an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics.
“I feel like that area is a second home to me,’’ Blackwood said.
Blackwood has also made a home for himself at the BU fields, where he quickly took to the instruction and advice offered by coaches. During Blackwood’s early search for a spot in college baseball, BU director of operations Addison Maruszak suggested a proactive approach. Why not write to some of the coaches?
When Maruszak checked back, Blackwood has written personal letters to two dozen coaches.
“I told him, ‘Dude, I’m so proud of you for taking that kind of initiative,’ ‘’ Maruszak said. “I said, ‘Because you are doing this and putting in the work, you’re going to play at the next level. No doubt. It’s just a matter of finding the spot that is right for you.’ ’’
Blackwood appears to have found that spot in CCSU.
“When you’re the parent of a baseball player, sometimes you see a 15-year-old kid make a commitment to a big-time Division I program like Florida or Florida State,’’ said Blackwood’s father (also named Michael). “It happens, but it doesn’t happen to a high percentage of kids. It just doesn’t happen as easily as it appears to sometimes.
“Michael has always wanted to play college baseball, but it didn’t get serious until this past summer before his senior year. Sometimes, you have to let the process happen. Unless you’re in that top 5 percent category, you need to be patient. If you’re good enough and you put the work in, good things will happen.’’
Blackwood and his father said BU was instrumental in the development necessary to find a spot in college baseball.
“The BU coaches are outstanding,’’ Blackwood said. “They have taught me so much about the mental part of the game and developing my baseball IQ.’’
“What I’ve heard from (college) coaches is Michael is a player that always seems to be in the right place and knows how to play the game,’’ Blackwood’s father said. “I attribute that to BU. I don’t think any of this happens without them. You couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be around.’’
Maruszak said Blackwood, a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder, is a legitimate defensive infielder who can fit at shortstop, second base or third base. Blackwood’s bat has low line-drive pop, making him a tough out as a singles/doubles-type hitter.
“Michael has been with us a while (about three years) and we’ve been impressed with his athleticism and skills,’’ Maruszak said. “We knew right now he wasn’t a University of Florida-type recruit, but his ability to self-evaluate and pick a great path for himself is really impressive.
“This is what recruiting is for 95 percent of the players. Not everybody can go to high Division I SEC/ACC programs. But there are other places to play. And whether that’s a out of the SEC/ACC D-I, D-2, D-3 or junior college, there’s a place you can play. Sometimes, it can lead to a spot in pro ball. Everybody develops differently. Bottom line: Michael will be able to showcase his ability at a place where he’s going to fit in really nicely. We are thrilled for him.’’
Blackwood’s father said the recruiting process worked well because his son was interested in leaving Florida for a Division I-level program. With valuable feedback from Maruszak and Steinbrenner coach John Crumbley, Blackwood always believed he would find a good spot.
“I have to give the BU guys credit because they are all about realistic expectations,’’ Blackwood’s father said. “After a while, you start to get an idea where you’re going to be slotted. I see some kids getting really discouraged when they realize it’s not going to be Florida or Florida State.
“But Addison and his staff gives such great guidance. They might say you can’t play at some schools yet, but you can definitely play somewhere. We were open-minded the whole way. If you’re like my son and you really want to play, you’ll pack a bag and find a school that’s interested in you. If you have patience and work at it, you’ll find the spot that’s ideal for you. I can’t thank BU enough for helping us on this path.’
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