In the same year that former Miami Dade College player Mike Piazza made the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Sharks program has sent yet another player to the major leagues.
Jabari Blash, who played for MDC in 2009 and 2010 as a raw prospect, made his MLB debut on April 4, drawing a walk in his first plate appearance for the San Diego Padres.
A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Blash arrived at MDC as a towering young man — 6-5 and 210 pounds. He now weighs 235.
At MDC, Blash was mentored for two years by former head coach Steve Hertz and assistant Jim Mansilla, and they taught the future major-leaguer discipline.
“When Jabari arrived here, he had great power — he could hit the ball 450 feet, and he could run for a big guy,” Hertz said. “He also had a good eye at the plate. He didn’t swing at too many bad pitches. He led our team in on-base percentage both years.”
Mansilla remembers he and Hertz talking to Blash several times about giving full effort on a consistent basis.
“His lack of effort at times got him in trouble,” Mansilla said. “It wasn’t malicious but just the lack of understanding.
“One time, we played a tournament in Las Vegas, and Jabari hit a grand slam. It was a moon shot. He was raw but had incredible power. When we saw him hit that ball, we knew he had a chance to play pro baseball.”
The Seattle Mariners agreed, drafting him in the eighth round in 2010. Blash progressed from there, and his MLB debut is a source of pride for MDC.
“The history of MDC is absolutely incredible,” Sharks coach Danny Price said. “We have a very proud legacy at this school and in this program.”
As for the current team, five MDC players have committed to Division I colleges, including catcher Nelson Mompierre (Missouri), outfielder Brandon Vicens (Maine), catcher/outfielder Chris Bec (Maine), right-hander Rafael Martinez (New Orleans) and right-hander Cleveland Westbrook (FAMU).
Price said left-hander Andrew George, outfielder Kevin Williams and right-hander Mike Perez are also being recruited by Division I schools.
Meanwhile, Bec, Mompierre and middle infielders Santiago Espinal and Kevin Santiago are MLB Draft candidates. And left-hander German Reyes (Mt. Olive) and first baseman Chris Medina (Embry Riddle) will play Division II ball.
The Buccaneers (22-21, 6-12 Sunshine State) have struggled this year, but two players are having monster seasons — shortstop Alex DeGoti and right fielder Ryan Baldwin.
DeGoti, a senior transfer from Long Beach State, leads Barry in batting average (.402), homers (13) and RBI (53). DeGoti, who played at Belen, is third in the conference in homers and RBI.
Baldwin, a sophomore from Maine, is second on the team in batting (.380) and homers (12) and third with 44 RBI. He hit .362 with three homers last year, when he was the conference’s Freshman of the Year.
The Bobcats (31-17, 11-7 Sun Conference) recently fell out of the NAIA Top 25 for the first time all year. Closer Chris Rodriguez is out for the year because of an arm injury, causing coach Jorge Perez to shift top starting pitcher Ben Ancheff to the bullpen.