When planning my trip out to Seattle, I knew I wanted to see Bishop Blanchet High third baseman Jake Lamb. I grew up near Seattle, so I knew to expect a one-sided affair when I saw Blanchet was playing Rainier Beach High, and that’s exactly what I got.
Bishop Blanchet hasn’t produced more professional players than Rainier Beach. Baseball-Reference.com lists three draft picks from each school and all three of Rainier Beach’s come since Blanchet’s last in 1997. However, the two teams couldn’t have been more different.
Bishop Blanchet is a private, Catholic school in north Seattle that costs nearly $10,000 a year to attend. Rainier Beach is a public school in a rough part of south Seattle. Known mostly for its basketball, Beach has produced NBA stars Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford.
On the field, the disparities were evident as well. Blanchet was a well-oiled machine, taking a polished pregame infield, while Rainier Beach was booting routine ground balls, making errant throws and just showing a general lack of fundamental skills. Blanchet had dozens of parents, friends and fans on their side of the stands. Rainier Beach had one woman . . . a teacher from their school.
Unfortunately for me, Lamb was out sick and not at the game. For most teams, this would have been a deal-breaker, a quick trip back to my car to find another game nearby. Not for Blanchet, because they have a great consolation prize in outfielder Josh Sale.
Sale (pronounced like Sally) put his name on the radar when he hit for the cycle in last year’s Area Code Games. He put on a show against Rainier Beach, too, but the performance has to be taken with a grain of salt because the competition was so sub-par. The pitches he was seeing were 60 mph meatballs and the catcher was throwing three-hoppers down to second base.
As a junior, Sale already has a thick, pro-ready body at about 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. He has broad shoulders, thick thighs and strong forearms. He’s already in a corner outfield position, but has an above-average arm and plays hard.
A lefthanded hitter, it would have been easy for him to step up against the inferior competition and get overanxious and swing out of his shoes. But I was impressed with his first at-bat—he stayed patient, working the count to 3-2 before lacing a line drive to center field. It was almost caught, but had a lot of top spin and the centerfielder, Ramon Fields, couldn’t keep it in his glove after a nice diving attempt.
Sale hits with his feet about shoulder-width apart, but his toes are pointed in toward the plate and his knees are much closer together than his feet. He has a quiet stance, but his swing is powerful. He explodes to the ball with fast hands and great bat speed. When he connects, the ping of his bat is noticeably louder than everyone else on the field.
In his second at-bat, he skied a ball to short left field. In most games, it probably would have been caught, but it fell in for a single. In his third at-bat, he got plunked in the shoulder. He’s not a good runner, but he stole second base easily, stole third on a pickoff attempt at first base and then scored on a balk—one of three or four Rainier Beach committed on the day.
In his fourth at-bat, he was a man on a mission. Getting out in front of the soft stuff just a tad, he scorched two balls down the right-field line, just foul. The next pitch came in and he absolutely destroyed it for a home run to right-center field, depositing it in the parking lot about 390 feet away. It was even more impressive because he wasn’t getting any help from the pitcher’s velocity and the wind was blowing in at the time.
Bishop Blanchet won 11-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning after the mercy rule was evoked and Josh Sale proved why he’s one of the best high school players in the country for next year.