Assistant Sports Editor
The first week of baseball practices often brings more questions than answers. From position players to pitching staffs, teams are faced with the tasks of determining who can and will contribute for them during the up coming season.
Springfield College won’t be facing this dilemma.
With their first round draft pick, the Pride selected Blake Pierce, a hard-throwing right-hander out of West Springfield, who will likely take over the number one spot in the rotation.
Owner of a running fastball and sound mechanics, Blake appears to be the answer the Pride have been looking for.
The seven-year-old, who is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), was partnered with Springfield College through Team IMPACT, an organization that matches children facing life-threatening illnesses with local college athletic teams.
This spring will mark the third time that Springfield and Team IMPACT have linked up, as Luke Bradley is a member of the football team and Celia LaBarbera was partnered with the softball team in 2012 and is now partnered with the women’s volleyball team .
Blake, a self-proclaimed ‘tosser’, brings hope to the Pride this spring. One year after falling in the conference semi-finals after claiming the NEWMAC West Division, Blake provides just the right amount of energy and zeal that the Pride need to continue their climb to the top.
At his introductory press conference on Feb. 11, receiving a team t-shirt with his name and the number one printed on the back, as well a team hat and book signed by Cal Ripken Jr., Blake showed he has the mentality to succeed in baseball crazed Massachusetts.
When asked how far he thought the Pride could go this spring, Blake was blunt and to the point. “All the way.”
After the resounding applause quieted down, Blake scanned the crowd through his thick glasses.
“Questions, questions anyone?”
Like an auctioneer, Blake raffled his answers to the crowd, proving he means business.
From the beginning of the press conference until the end, Blake captivated everyone in attendance. He carried himself with a unique swagger, a swagger that most seven-year olds in his situation probably would not posses.
His resilience showed early when Blake was asked about his animals.
“We have three cats. One young cat, one old cat, and not an old old cat. Felix, which we got when our cat Shelby died,” Blake explained with a twinge of sadness as the room went quite. Quickly, he moved past it. “And Baby Girl. Mom found her eating garbage on the side of the street.”
He had confidence and moxy. He explained how one fish was “just laying in the tank, nappin” while most of Springfield was torn apart by a tornado in 2011. His second fish, he estimates is “50-years-old probably. Not sure though.”
He finished his animal description by putting his parents on the spot.
“That’s all the pets we have,” Blake said, before his father whispers in his year. “Yeah, for now. Until I get a dog.”
In his short time with the Pride, he met the four Team IMPACT leaders two weeks ago before being introduced to the rest of his teammates at the press conference, Blake is already making his own impact.
“When we were walking in (to the press conference) he asks me, ‘is this your home?’” said Ben Bohlke, a junior pitcher. “I said, ‘well, yeah, this is our home.’ This is where we live for four years. I’m excited to bring Blake into our home and make him apart of our team.”
Although he hasn’t stepped onto the field with the Pride just yet, his swagger and confidence is already taking effect on his new teammates.
“It’s really inspirational to see,” junior Billy Peterson said, one of the teams IMPACT Leaders. “I feel like he’s the kind of kid that doesn’t let (ALL) impact him. He doesn’t want you to feel bad for him. He wants to feel like everyone else. He wants to feel like he belongs. He carries that with him and that makes him who he is.”
The only dilemma Springfield may run into, is figuring out all the little tricks Blake has up his sleeve. From backwards day (a day in which everything is backwards, “plus is minus, minus is plus”), to his guessing games, Blake is unpredictable.
“I always get people on that one (his age). They guess one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and I say you’re close at seven. Then they guess eight and then they give up and I say seven and a half. I always get them. It’s a trick.”