Coty Blanchard is hoping his role as a two-sport athlete in college proves beneficial as he makes his way through his first professional baseball season in the Appalachian League.
The second baseman for the Princeton Rays has put aside football to concentrate on baseball.
"This is always what I wanted to do," Blanchard said of baseball. "I wanted to get some college in me. I learned a lot, and it's definitely helped me get here."
He arrived on the Princeton squad out of Jacksonville State. He was a 15th-round Draft pick in June.
Now it's time to make the switch from shortstop to the other side of the infield, all part of the process. In that regard, he's continuing his education.
"He's just learning the pro game as well," Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said. "School's in session for a lot of these guys."
Blanchard, a quarterback, split time as a football starter early in his college career, though as a freshman he engineered a comeback in an upset of Mississippi. He also handled punting.
By the 2012 Cape Cod League season, things were clearly leaning toward baseball. With Falmouth, he said he "showed some tools that I could run and hit for some power."
Playing time last fall on the football field waned for Blanchard. He was the second-string quarterback for Jacksonville State, which began the season against Arkansas and finished against Florida.
"I got to do it and I got to experience that," Blanchard said of football. "That chance to do it in the South. … There's a bunch of things in football that have helped me -- the physical part of it. But the grind in baseball is so many games."
He worked out for Tampa Bay in Florida before the Draft, so he had an inkling the Rays were interested. Still, it took more than a week before Blanchard came to terms with the club.
He has been careful with decisions in the past. Blanchard passed on a baseball scholarship to Mississippi State after committing there, so that he could play two sports in college. Also, he didn't turn pro after the Baltimore Orioles drafted him in the 41st round coming out of high school in 2010 in Leesburg, Ala.
The first couple of weeks with Princeton have shown that he's still getting the hang of things, managing to notch a hit in only four of his first 12 games. Yet the experience is helpful, he said.
"It's been going good," Blanchard said. "I'm loving it. I'm still getting acclimated with everything."
He said the small cities and small-town atmosphere in the Appalachian League suit him fine.
"It's not a culture shock for me," Blanchard said. "I'm from a small town in Alabama."
Don't act your age: Pulaski Mariners left-hander Luiz Gohara, a 16-year-old from Brazil, has 16 strikeouts with two walks in 10 2/3 innings covering three outings. "He definitely doesn't look 16," Pulaski manager Chris Prieto said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder. "He carries himself really well. He doesn't pitch like he's 16."
Streak buster: Jonathan Keener was back in the Appalachian League for the first time since 2011, and the Johnson City Cardinals were happy to have him. He drove in four runs July 6 as the Cardinals defeated the Kingsport Mets, 10-5, to snap a six-game losing streak. It was Johnson City's longest losing skid since 2008.
About time: The Burlington Royals had never won a series at Elizabethton, where they dropped the final two games of the 2012 championship series in extra innings last September, until doing so this week. It came in the form of a three-game sweep. Even with that, the Royals are now 6-17 over seven seasons at Elizabethton.