As Spring Training approaches, minor league players all across the nation are gearing up for the upcoming season, and the excitement for a fresh start abounds at every corner. That excitement is extremely evident in 22-year-old Mark Blackmar, a right-handed pitcher in the Chicago White Sox’ organization.
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 16th round of the 2011 MLB draft, Blackmar spent the first four years of his professional career working his way through the lower levels of O’s system. He made 18 starts and 26 total appearances for High-A Frederick in 2014, posting a 3.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 130.1 innings pitched.
“It’s (Baltimore) a great organization,” Blackmar said. “The first few years were really nice. When you get to pro ball, it’s a lot different than what you’re used to, so starting with the Orioles, getting going and figuring out what I need to do and how to prepare. It’s a great organization and I had a great time with them.”
On August 30th, 2014, just days before the end of the minor league season, Baltimore traded Blackmar, along with right-hander Miguel Chalas, to the White Sox, in exchange for Major League outfielder Alejandro De Aza. The Orioles were in need of outfield depth for the stretch run, and decided to part ways with some of their young talent in order to attain it. This move came as a total surprise to Blackmar, who would be changing uniforms for the first time.
“It was pretty wild,” Blackmar indicated. “I think there were two games left in the season for us, and I was sitting down in the bullpen, just watching the game with some of the guys. Our trainer came running down and said that our minor league coordinator is on the phone, so I got on the phone and he told me I’ve been traded. It was like the seventh inning or something. Our season was almost over and I’m figuring out how I’m going to get home and that type stuff, and to hear news like that was pretty shocking.”
After a long, boring off-season, Blackmar recently divulged that he is itching to get back on the mound and prove himself to a new club throughout the Spring.
“I’m really excited,” Blackmar stated. “The off-season, I love it, but at the same time, it’s such a long time to take off from doing something that you love. I’m ready just to get back out there and start competing again. I’m extremely excited to join the White Sox and I think this a great opportunity for me to be apart of a fantastic program”
Listed at 6’3″ and 215 pounds, Blackmar owns the prototypical pitcher’s frame: tall and lanky. His fastball typically sits in the upper 80s to 90s, and he offsets that with a decent slider and developing change-up. Not overpowering by any means, but that finesse style has proven to be an efficient alternative. Blackmar is quietly athletic and certainly knows how to field his position.
Even though he made 18 starts a year ago for High-A Frederick, many still believe Blackmar is suited best in the bullpen moving forward. When asked if he would be open to more of a full-time role in the bullpen with his new team, Blackmar was not indecisive with his response.
“I’m very open to it,” he said. “I like starting and I like being out of the bullpen. Either way, it doesn’t bother me. I think they both have their perks and disadvantages, it’s just all about how you prepare. Whatever helps me make it to the big leagues, and wherever they see me and whatever role they see me in, I’m fully committed to being there.”
Evidently, substantial success in the realm of professional sports runs in the family. Mark’s father, Phil Blackmar, is a pro golfer, formerly on the PGA Tour and currently on the Champions Tour. Growing up with a father who’s a prominent sports figure can be both a blessing and a curse, but Mark realizes the abundance of benefits.
According to Mark, his father has been a terrific role model for him and a significant influence on his flourishing baseball career.
“He has impacted me tremendously,” Mark explained. “To have someone who’s gone through the day-in and day-out grind, the mental side of the game, just how to prepare, and everything that comes along with being a professional athlete. His advice has been invaluable. It’s been very, very helpful.”
Combine his four years of minor league experience with the euphoria of joining a new club, and it appears that Mark Blackmar is poised to exit out of his father’s shadow and make a name for himself in the greatest game on the face of the earth (my humble opinion, of course). Be sure to keep an eye on this young man as he begins his climb through the ranks in the White Sox’ organization.