PEORIA, Ariz. — The 15th-annual Arizona Senior Fall Classic kicked off today in Peoria, Ariz. at the Mariners and Padres spring training complex. While many of the 59 teams are from the West Coast or Four Corners region, there are players in attendance from 33 different states, as well as Canada.
New Mexico isn't traditionally seen as a baseball hotbed. The best player to come out of the state is Tony Phillips, but he was drafted in 1978. More recently, players like Matt Moore and Kyle Blanks are helping to put it on the map. The next player on that list is likely to be Blake Swihart.
Swihart is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound switch hitting catcher from Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, N.M. He made the seven-hour drive to play in the event and it will be his last big event before his senior season starts.
Swihart has already had an eventful summer. He played for Team USA, where he led the team in hitting with a line of .448/.492/.845 with six doubles and five home runs.
"It was a great experience, playing with all those guys, playing with the best players in the country," Swihart said. "It's just fun and a good atmosphere. I think I grew as a player because it's kind of like playing in the minor leagues, in a way. You're on your own and it's just hotel, baseball, hotel, baseball, so you kind of learn to manage everything and you're own your own pretty much, just playing baseball and doing what you love."
Swihart, who is verbally committed to Texas, said he was feeling all right today, but did admit that his swing was getting a little long from the left side.
He said he can feel when his swing is getting a little long on the left side and said it's because he's not as dominant from that side yet. After all, he only started hitting from that side too during his sophomore year of high school. Catching is even newer to him—last summer was his first time spent behind the plate. Before that, he was mostly a utility player, shuffling between second base, third base and the outfield.
"In Little League, I had caught a little bit, so it wasn't that big of a deal," Swihart said. "But I knew I had to work my butt off just to get to the caliber where everyone else is. I worked on my blocking and my feet a lot. My feet weren't very quick and they've gotten a lot better than what they were. I had the arm, just not the feet yet."
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