By: Paul Slobodzian
The term “student-athlete” is ubiquitous in both high school and college athletics, and it can be difficult to balance rigorous course studies with intense practices and games.
Blake Crossing, however, epitomizes the “student-athlete.” He has committed to Dartmouth College, an Ivy League in Hanover, New Hampshire, to play baseball and study biophysical chemistry and economics.
Blake is one of the most important members on the Varsity baseball team. He excelled at the sport when he was younger, but he played it almost by default based on his height as a child.
“I was always small, to be completely honest,” Blake stated. “I couldn’t play any other sports. I wasn’t strong or fast, so I couldn’t play football. I, for sure, wasn’t tall, so I couldn’t play basketball. I wasn’t coordinated enough with my feet to play soccer. I had no choice [to play baseball], and I just happened to like it.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Blake Crossing in Action at NHS vs. EC
Competing at an elite level has been on Blake’s radar since he began playing baseball. He was affiliated with East Cobb Baseball out of Marietta, one of the top baseball programs in the United States, and has played on the Astros. He then moved to his current team, the Home Plate Chilidogs in Peachtree City, and is currently playing for them.
Playing on an elevated stage comes with extravagant events and tournaments, and Blake has participated in some of the best and most competitive baseball tournaments the U.S. has to offer. He reminisced on a few of his favorites.
“[My favorite tournament was] either the Cooperstown Dream Park in New York, the last tournament I played in for travel ball in Jupiter, Florida or the Elite 32 when I was twelve which was also in Florida,” Blake said. “That was cool because I got to go to Orlando, and it’s when I hit a homerun.”
Blake has played on the infield, shortstop specifically, since he was young, but he also spent time playing other positions around the diamond during his youth. The outfield, however, moved out of his preferred rotation.
“I played outfield [when I was younger],” Blake asserted. “I liked the outfield, but as the field got bigger, there was so much space out there. Taking out the fielding aspect of the game makes it really one-dimensional; if you’re an outfielder, you catch maybe one or two fly balls a game and then you go hit a bunch. You have to focus on hitting, and I didn’t want to focus on hitting all that much.”
Blake’s childhood was filled with great memories involving the tournaments and games he participated in, but he also formed lasting memories during the time period when he wasn’t able to play.
“When I was thirteen years old, I hyperextended my knee, and I couldn’t play that year. My dad put me on the coaching staff and let me coach a whole tournament. [He let me] make out the lineup, coach third base and we won the tournament,” Blake recalled. “They gave me the plaque, and I still have it since it was my brother’s team.”
Since then, Blake has transitioned to a stand-out high school player who has played on the Cougars’ Varsity team since his sophomore season. The team is always able to travel to various locations across Georgia, but they ventured outward this year to Valdosta to meet and play teams from Florida.
Blake’s favorite high school memory occurred during a recent trip. The team didn’t perform as well as they would have hoped, but many of the players, including Blake, still enjoyed the excursion because of the time they shared as both teammates and friends.
“The trip to Valdosta this year was definitely awesome,” Blake said. “The bus ride was hilarious, and even though we lost both games, we still had such a good time.”
Newnan Baseball has had success over recent years, including playoff appearances in both of Blake’s first two years on Varsity, and he has been an integral piece of the team’s puzzles.
Now, as the Cougars are gearing up for a postseason push in his senior season, Blake is taking on a new role on the team as one who leads by both example and voice.
Blake commented on shortstop and his new role on the team and some of the difficulties they can entail.
“Trying to lead the infield [is one of the most difficult things],” Blake stated, “Especially right now, there are younger guys on the infield. Sometimes it’s hard to make sure everybody else knows what’s going on.”
Blake bats high up in the order because of his abilities to get on base whether it is via a walk or hit, but, like virtually every player, he has his personal favorite.
His favorite lineup slot, as Blake answered, is “second, because you get to show off a bunch of different skills with the bat. You could be asked to bunt, slash, hit-and-run, and you’re still at the top order even if the lead-off hitter gets out. Plus, you still get a bunch of at-bats.”
There are stark differences between travel baseball and high school baseball, and since he has played both at basically their highest levels, Blake is able to shed light on what is unique about each.
Regarding high school baseball, Blake commented that “there is a lot more emphasis on the team. There is a lot more emphasis on manufacturing runs and not hitting the ball as far as you can for the scouts, like in travel ball. Scouting reports are a big thing, because the deeper you get in the season, the more people know who you are and how to pitch you that definitely makes it harder to play, especially to hit.”
Blake, however, has championed many of the difficulties with opposing scouting reports and stiff competition, because as mentioned earlier, he has committed to play baseball at Dartmouth College beginning later in 2016. Blake explained his decision to choose the academically-challenging school over somewhere in which he could devote more time to baseball without worrying so much about his academics.
“I’m looking for somewhere, college-wise, that’s academically-challenging where I can still play at a competitive level,” Blake said.
“Going to Dartmouth, I am looking more for the academic side, but then they [Dartmouth] go out and play the number one team in the country [Florida Gators] to the twelfth inning and lose in a walk-off. That gives me a good idea that they are pretty competitive themselves even though they aren’t a big school.”
As Blake prepares for his final high school games, Newnan Baseball looks at another playoff appearance and the final high school games for Blake and the other seven seniors on the team.
Blake reflected on the four years he has spent playing with Newnan and also what he is looking forward to with Dartmouth.
“It’s meant playing for a program much larger than me,” Blake stated. “I’ve learned how to put my team before myself during the game, focusing on our collective success more than my own individual success.”
Dartmouth Baseball travels a lot early in the year because of the frigid, winter temperatures in the New England states, but the travel shouldn’t faze Blake.
“[I’m excited about] traveling a ton,” Blake explained. “The first half of the Dartmouth season is away games, and I’ll get to see the entire U.S. as we play a bunch of different teams across the country.”