CHARLESTON, S.C.-- Over the course of a long, grueling season, it's important for every player to keep a steady head through the highs and lows that inevitably come with the game of baseball. Whether he's 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, RiverDogs first baseman Dalton Blaser takes the pride in being the same guy day in and day out. Undoubtedly one of the leaders in the Charleston clubhouse to start the year, his infectious personality keeps the RiverDogs even keel with a steady stream of positivity that seems unrelenting.
"I've always tried to be a leader, only because I'm somebody who likes to have that. Guys can fall back on you, guys can yell at you, when guys are upset they can come and talk to you. I like to be a guy where no one feels like they're nervous to come up and have a conversation with me," says Blaser "For me, it helps me play my game. When I'm open, when I'm having fun and I'm smiling, typically I'm doing pretty well."
A native of Roseville, Calif., Blaser spent his final two years of college at Cal State Fullerton, where he was the Big West Position Player of the Year in 2016 and an undisputed leader for the Titans during their 2015 run to the College World Series. But its not just his power stroke from the left-hand side that catches the eye of his teammates, it's the constant energy that never seems to give out that really makes him stand out, something he's had ever since he can remember.
"I've always been a very energetic kid. My mom used to always say when we as a family would sit around the dinner table and ask each other about our days, my brother and sister would be sitting down and they'd talk and then it would get to me and I'd stand up and I'd get all animated and tell stories. I've always been a high energy kid, I've always been smiling and there's just not that many times were I'm down. I love what I do; I love being around the guys. I can't picture myself sitting at a desk from 9-5. It's just not something I can do so I try to just take every day and have fun with it."
Where Blaser attributes his big personality to his mom, Anita, in his own family (he's the "crazy one" between him and his two older siblings), his baseball skills come from his father, Mark, who spent six seasons in the minor leagues, including an 80-game stint with the Greensboro Hornets in the South Atlantic League in the Yankees organization in 1982. In a career that included being teammates with the future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson while in the Expos farm system, he is a fountain of knowledge for his son on the struggles of the minor league life, including one lesson in particular.
"[My dad] has this funny story where he forgot his cup one day and was playing third base and he borrowed one of the catcher's cups. It was a metal cup and some guy comes up and hits a rocket at him and it just hits him right in the cup and he falls backwards. So, they call time and the manager comes running out and they come up to my dad and he's laughing hysterically on the ground saying, 'man you should have heard it, when it hit the cup, it went bing!'…I still wear a cup to this day because I never forget that story."
While Blaser can always be found smiling in the dugout or singing in the clubhouse, even he has his rough days, but they're few and far between. Now an established regular batting cleanup in the lineup to start the year, Blaser's position on the team wasn't as certain when he was called up to Charleston as an injury replacement in May of 2017.
"When I first came up [last year], I remember I was talking to [the RiverDogs manager, Patrick Osborn] and I think I was 1-for-13. We were in Greenville and I was just struggling trying to put an at-bat together and Oz was like 'hey, you don't have to go out and prove anything to anyone. Just go out there and be who you are. That's why you're here and why we love you.' So I went out there and had a good couple of games, but it's very rare that I get down because this game, I try to look at it as a big picture. If you dwell on one night, you're going to have a long season."
After that conversation with Osborn, Blaser homered as part of a three-hit game at Fluor Field and went deep in three of his next four. This year breaking camp with a full-season roster for the first time, he has started hot out of the gates, including hitting safely in his first six games of the season. Now one of the established, more experienced players on the squad, Blaser is still learning in his new leadership role on the team.
"Any clubhouse I go into, I just try to go ahead and be myself, help the team out anyway I can, lead anyway I can. So, this is a little bit different; we've got a younger team, a couple of these guys I played with in Staten Island and a couple here in Charleston…It's a new team so you've got to find that new dynamic and how you're going to lead. Is it going to be with your mouth? Is it going to be with the way you play?"
Is Blaser as he describes himself "a little much sometimes?" Maybe, but its an energy source the RiverDogs will lean on for however long Blaser is in the clubhouse.
"I guarantee you some of [my teammates] would say 'he's a lot man, he's a lot,' but some of them are going to say 'man we love it. But they're all going to say, 'he just loves to be here' and that's all I want them to say."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.