By Chris Real
Andy Ward and Taylor Blatch, both righthanded pitchers for the Amsterdam Mohawks, have been teammates before this summer in the PGCBL. Both met each other through a Florida travel team that plays in multiple tournaments put on by Perfect Game and have continued as teammates through college and in the PGCBL.
The two started off as teammates playing for the Orlando Scorpions travel team, one of the premier prep travel teams in Florida. Playing with the Scorpions helped expose the two players to more college scouts due in part to the connection with Perfect Game. Blatch and Ward also participated at the PG National Showcase at this time in 2012, and recognize the opportunities that event has presented them. “Close to my junior year, I was recognized by the Orlando Scorpions at a local tournament that was with Perfect Game," Blatch said. "Once I got onto the Scorpions, they exposed me to plenty of Perfect Game tournaments and showcases which led to letters from colleges.”
The Scorpions play in multiple Perfect Game tournaments such as the WWBA East Memorial Day Classic, the 17u WWBA National Championship -- an event the Scorpions claimed the championship in 2013 -- the 17u PG BCS Finals and the PG WWBA National Invitational. Multiple Scorpions’ players are invited to participate in the PG National Showcase, as both Blatch and Ward were in 2012.
“I got invited to a tryout with the Orlando Scorpions," Ward said. "Through them, I started going to Perfect Game events and Perfect Game showcases and such. Before I played with the Scorpions or any Perfect Game tournament, I didn’t really have any college interested in me, besides a couple schools whose camp I’d been to. Once I went to the Junior National Showcase, the summer going into our junior year, I pitched at that and a couple coaches were able to contact me through emails.
“The more and more I played Perfect Game, the more interest colleges were developing in me and it gave me more chances to play baseball at a D-I level.”
In the Perfect Game National Showcase, both Ward and Blatch performed well in front of a magnitude of college scouts. In 2012 the PG scouts wrote the following about Ward: Mid-80s fastball, has topped out at 91 mph before, turned over 2-seamer with good late sink, curveball flashed good spin in the mid-70s, sweeping depth. Ward received an overall PG grade of 9.5 out of 10.
The reports were even more impressive for Blatch from the same event: Fastball, up to 93 mph with good life and plane, ball comes out of his hand very easily, very nice changeup with plus life. Blatch received a 10.0 PG grade, the highest grade that can be attained.
Blatch also performed well at the 2013 World Showcase and was named to the event's top prospect list because of his performance.
The combination of their skill and their performances led them to continue playing baseball at Florida State University.
Both players have just wrapped up their freshman season for the Seminoles who were a Regional host at the college baseball level. Blatch finished the season with a 1-0 record in 14 appearances and two games started. This summer, they are looking forward to the experience of playing in the PGCBL and improving their skills as pitchers.
“One part about being a college baseball player is most of the time you can always find something to work on; whether it’s mechanics, for me as a pitcher you can always work on mechanics, velocity, location, there’s plenty of things you can work on," Ward said. "Mostly with the [PGCBL] league this summer, I planned on focusing on my mechanics and location most of the time, and normally velocity comes with mechanics.
“So I’ll just be looking into that, looking to get strong for my next year at FSU.”
For Blatch, he was drawn to the PGCBL because of fellow teammates and also because of Perfect Game’s affiliation with the summer league. He wanted to be somewhere he felt comfortable and the PGCBL was a perfect fit.
“Coaches mentioned other leagues," Blatch said. "When they mentioned Perfect Game, I was really interested because it was familiar, I knew what kind of attention it brought and I just wanted to go somewhere comfortable for me and I knew there was a friend [Ward] going there that I had been rooming with for awhile, so that would have been comfortable. So Perfect Game [PGCBL] was a good place for me.”
As far as the atmosphere goes playing in the PGCBL, both players have enjoyed everything about it, from the players to the fans.
“It’s a very good atmosphere," Blatch continued. "I didn’t know what to expect. I was talking to players on Florida State who have already been in the league; as soon as I got up here and got to witness one of the games, I was really excited the turnout in fans and meeting my teammates.
“They always have my back whenever I go out and pitch."
“It’s definitely a new experience for me playing in upstate New York, it’s a little bit of a smaller town than the one I’m used to," Ward added. "Overall the league is very organized, they take really good care of their players up here.
“It’s been fun so far just a few games into the season, there’s a good amount of fans. They definitely bring a good fan base to the PGCBL and it’s a lot of fun playing in front of them."
Through the first five games of the season, both players have seen action on the mound. Blatch has started one game for the Mohawks and threw five innings, recording five strikeouts and earning a win in his start. Ward has made one relief appearance thus far in the season.
Another part of playing in the PGCBL is that the Mohawks are active within the community. Ward said that the Mohawks have been to an elementary school and have more events with the community planned.
For both players, this summer will be just how it’s been the past few years for them; playing baseball alongside each other and continuing to improve as players.
“We played two years of travel ball before college and now our freshman year of college we were on the same team," Ward said. "We’ve been roommates since we’ve been in college. So really playing with Taylor is nothing new, we’re just kind of used to it by now.”
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