Hit-machine Blackmon is back: 'I want to win'

Rockies veteran impressing teammates with routine; 'I'd go crazy. It works for him'

February 25th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies’ doesn’t just love succeeding at baseball. He loves baseball.

Last season, Blackmon missed much of Summer Camp after a COVID-19 diagnosis, then batted a freakish .500 for the first 17 games. The final 42 games were equally freakish for Blackmon, a former National League batting champ. He hit .216.

And he found a way to even love the low end.

“If you want to feel alive, go out there and get your butt kicked, or strike out in the big spot, or make that error that loses the game,” Blackmon said. “For me, that’s when I feel the most alive.

“I hate it, and I want to change it.”

The trade of Nolan Arenado to St. Louis, and Ian Desmond’s decision to not play, leaves Blackmon as by far the team’s most experienced player, with 8 1/2 years of Major League service time. Non-roster first baseman C.J. Cron is next, with more than six years. While his teammates remember former Rockies star Todd Helton from their baseball cards, Blackmon actually shared a clubhouse with him.

But it’s helpful for teammates to see that age hasn’t dulled baseball’s double edge for Blackmon. No matter how much they put into their efforts, Blackmon has put in an excessive amount for longer, with no sign of slowing.

“Charlie is awesome,” said Garrett Hampson, the favorite to move into center field -- Blackmon’s former position before he moved to right field in 2019. “And what he does as routine is just something that I respect him for, because there's no way I could do what he does. I can't sit there in the weight room and roll out [on a foam roller, for recovery] for three hours. It's just not who I am. I can't. I’d go crazy. It works for him.”

Another value in Blackmon is he has stayed faithful to the game, through good Rockies seasons and bad. He has been to four All-Star Games and appeared in the postseason twice. He also has fought through some rough times, including the 26-34 record in last year’s shortened season.

A theme at this camp is many of the Rockies are fueled by the low projections for Colorado, mainly because of an unproven group of position players. Blackmon, signed through this year but holding player options for 2022 ($21 million) and ’23 ($10 million), has enough in the tank that he doesn’t need to add doubts for fuel.

“Personally, I really don’t care what anybody else thinks about me or the team,” Blackmon said. “You don’t have as much of an idea as I do and the people in the clubhouse. Let’s say that’s fair.

“Because we have good players is the short answer. Because the potential of most of our players that I expect to see on the field for the Rockies is well above league average. If you look around our lineup, maybe it’s cherry-picking to say, ‘Wow, this guy was really good at one point in his career,’ there are a lot of guys that have the ability to do that consistently that haven’t done it yet.”

Not even Blackmon’s consistency could overcome 2020.

“It was a really late start for Charlie getting ready for the season -- there were minimal at-bats, just minimal intrasquad games,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “In the opening series against the Rangers, he was just really getting on his feet. And from that point on for that series, he started really hitting and got on fire. Then things evened out.

“Over the long haul, if we had played 162, we would have seen typical numbers from Charlie.”

Blackmon embraced the information from last season’s downturn. While he didn’t detail the problem, he assured that it wasn’t his swing itself. Interestingly, in those final 42 games, Blackmon struck out on 20.8 percent (36 of 173) of his plate appearances. Never had he fanned that much over a full season.

“At the end of the year I’ll sit down: ‘What could I have done differently and what did I do well?’” Blackmon said. “I’ll try to diagnose. Why did I spend more time down here than I should have? I’ve figured out more or less what I think it was and addressed that problem, and I’ll try to keep that from happening in the future.

“But it’s rarely mechanics for me. Sometimes it is, but usually it’ll be a mental or an aggressiveness thing. I don’t feel I have some glaring mechanical issue in my swing.”

After a season that made him feel alive in an uncomfortable way, Blackmon and his wife, Ashley, welcomed new life -- a daughter, Josie Layne.

Blackmon enters the 2021 season with plenty of love in his home life and at work. He doesn’t have to choose.

“The right answer is, obviously, being a dad,” Blackmon said. “But I’ll tell you what. I really like getting hits. I love getting hits, want to win everything.

“There are more important things than baseball. I love my family and love my daughter. But I still really, really want to win baseball games, and feel like I’m not going to have any trouble being 100 percent focused on baseball.”