Aug. 20, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When former University of Iowa baseball player Tyson Blaser went undrafted in the 2011 MLB Draft, he came to grips with the possibility that his playing career was likely over. That thought was put to rest when he received a call from the New York Yankees.
After talking to an organizational scout, Blaser signed a professional contract and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League squad in rookie ball. Despite seeing limited playing time, Blaser was in the right place at the right time, which allowed him to quickly move up the minor league ladder.
"The Tampa Yankees -- the team's high class A affiliate -- had a catcher go down, so they needed a guy to move up to catch their bullpens," said Blaser, who closed out his Hawkeye career as a third team All-Big Ten catcher in 2011. "Then another one of their catchers went down, so now I find myself playing regularly. I can't ask for anything better right now."
Last week, Blaser had the opportunity to interact and play alongside 14-time All-Star and three-time American League Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees' starting third baseman was in Tampa making a rehab appearance in preparation for rejoining the big league club.
When Blaser got to the ballpark last Saturday and saw his name on the same line-up card as Rodriguez, he was quick to get proof.
"It's surreal seeing all these guys you grew up watching play. I've known these guys and watched these guys play, so it's really cool to be interacting with them and being a part of this."
Tampa Yankees catcher Tyson Blaser
"It is probably the last thing I ever thought, that I would be in the same line-up as Alex Rodriguez," said Blaser. "I got to the field and saw my name in the line-up, so I quick took out my camera phone and took a picture of the line-up, so I have some proof to show my kids someday."
Prior to that game, Rodriguez sat down with his teammates on the Tampa roster for a question and answer session.
"He was a pretty nice guy, personable and pretty easy to talk to," said Blaser. "He talked about hitting in general and his take on routines and preparation. It was really neat to be able to hear him talk because he is one of the best hitters in the game of baseball."
Rodriguez isn't the only big-leaguer that Blaser has had the opportunity to come in contact with. Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, Jeff Marquez and Derek Jeter were all in Tampa at one point for rehab appearances throughout the season.
"It's surreal seeing all these guys you grew up watching play," said Blaser. "I've known these guys and watched these guys play, so it's really cool to be interacting with them and being a part of this."
Blaser is adjusting to the little nuances that are different from collegiate to professional baseball.
"It's really easy to kind of slide by without doing a whole lot here because there is not someone looking over your shoulder telling you to do this, this, or this," said Blaser. "There has to be an internal drive, and that's something that is a little different from the collegiate level.
"When you get here, you have to make sure you're getting everything done. There are definitely people here that want to help you, but you have to show that you want to be helped. You have to put the work in."
Blaser is working hard to improve his game, trying to make a name for himself in preparation for the future.
"It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was sitting in rookie ball, catching bullpens," said Blaser. "Now I am in high A ball getting to play. I am going with the flow right now. The ultimate goal would be to come back to spring training and make a team -- get myself in the system, play a full year and go from there."