San Diego Padres: Exclusive Interview with Catcher Blake Hunt

Blake Hunt may not be a household name for baseball fans yet, but he will get there very soon if his work ethic and potential have any say in the matter. Drafted with the No. 69 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the new San Diego Padres’ catching prospect has huge potential for the future.

Many viewed Hunt as the best defensive catcher in the entire draft class. He also brings some power to the lineup as well and is continuing to work hard on his game on both sides of the diamond. San Diego couldn’t be happier with one of the most intriguing new prospects.

San Diego general manager A.J. Preller talked about Hunt soon after taking him in the draft and had a lot of praise for the young catcher.

“He throws real well,” said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. “He has the chance to neutralize the running game, another guy with good makeup. From our standpoint, it wasn’t about need or anything like that. In the system, it’s always important to have catching. We just felt like those were the two best guys on the board at that time.”

Hunt was a relatively unhyped prospect throughout the majority of the draft process. Just before the draft, however, that changed and he shot up draft boards. Now, he is one of the top prospects for Padres’ fans and baseball fans in general to keep an eye on in the coming years as he continues to develop.

Evan Massey of Lifestyle Sports 101 had the chance to sit down for an interview with Hunt. Many different topics were discussed and it is must-read material for Padres and MLB fans.

First up was to find out how life with the Padres has gone for Hunt so far.

“It’s been great, to say the least. I feel blessed to have been selected by an organization that values young talent and is doing their best to groom us to become the future of the club. This first summer was hands down one of the most exciting times of my life because I got to learn a lot about myself as a young player and finding out exactly what the daily life of pro ball entails.”

Next up, he talked about how his brief action in 2017 helped him grow as a player for the future.

“I would say so far, I’ve learned about the mental ups and downs I experience on an everyday basis. I focus on maintaining a level head through the day because as the weeks begin to pile up, the body starts to wear down. It’s important to keep the mental aspect of my game up to par that way I don’t begin to spiral out of control mentally. Yes, the physical aspect is grueling, but without a steady mindset before stepping in the box or locking in before every pitch, I don’t stand a chance with any pitcher. I’ve found that a consistent routine is crucial to success so I’ve played around with and found new ways to incorporate that into each at bat. As a young player, I understand that I’m beginning to define who I’ll be and it’s nice to have the ability to play around with new ideas in order to find out what suits me best.

And this is all only my first half season of pro ball. I can’t wait to experience a full season team where you learn to become a student of the game day in and day out.”

Hunt has also set some big goals for the upcoming 2018 season.

“First and foremost, one of my goals is to remain healthy. While I’ve experienced some shoulder issues this first season, I was still able to DH most of the year to get my feet wet with facing professional arms. Secondly, I just wish to control what I can and focus on the task at hand. I’m going to try and limit anything that would allow me to get outside myself and what I’m capable of. After that, everything else is out of my control. I’ve experienced some moments where I try to get ahead of myself at the plate so I’m simply going to try and go in each day with some goals and focus on what I need to do pitch to pitch.”

At this point in his career, Hunt has locked in on what his biggest strengths and weaknesses are.

“I would definitely say my defense is one of my strengths that I began to show during my high school career. I like to think the mental aspect of my game behind the plate is what separates me defensively but I do understand there’s a lot of room for growth in both of those areas. Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of great minds the last year and a half that have had a strong influence on me as a player. Offensively, I feel I have room for growth but that I’m more confident than I’ve been in the past with the direction I’m headed. A lot of our hitting coaches worked with me this year and I really enjoyed getting to break down swings and toss around ideas. I’m pretty excited to pick back up where we left off at the end of the season and get back to work in the spring.”

Hunt continued on to give us some background on who he was a fan up during his childhood.

“So growing up I loved the Giants mainly because of a few of my favorite players. I had some family up in the Bay Area so they had a little bit of an influence as well. But, as a young catcher I loved to watch Buster Posey. I got the chance to meet him a few years ago and it was pretty exciting to meet my favorite player.

The feeling of finally becoming a professional hadn’t really set in right after the draft. It took awhile for me to realize what I had accomplished. For dreaming my entire life of becoming a big leaguer, this is as close as you can get before you make it and it was honestly amazing to have finally realized that I’m close. Yes, there’s more work ahead of me than I’ve already accomplished to get to the big leagues, but it’s a strong step in the right direction. While I was ready for college and that direction of my life at Pepperdine, I feel that my situation couldn’t have worked out any better being selected by the Padres.”

Moving forward, Hunt talked about potential comparisons for him that are currently playing in the majors.

“I’m not much for making comparisons of myself to any big leaguer yet, but I’ve had some coaches make some both offensively and defensively. I love to watch and learn what I can from catchers and growing up it was fun to watch Yadi and Russel Martin and what they’re both capable of. Obviously, Posey as well, being my favorite player. But also some of the younger guys who are now starting to leave a mark like Wilson Contreras, Tucker Barnhart, and Austin Hedges; all guys who have freakish defensive athleticism and skill.”

If you’re a young player with dreams of playing professional baseball, Hunt has some advice for you.

“I was able to meet a lot of guys this summer from different backgrounds in terms of where they played high school or college ball whether it be D1 or JC. Guys from every part of the world basically. There’s no reason to give up on your dream just because of where you are at that moment in time. If you’ve got the work ethic and drive to become a better player, the results will begin to show themselves and it won’t go unnoticed. There’s so much room for growth, mentally and physically, at any level of baseball. That’s why there’s never a good reason to give up your dream of playing professional baseball if you possess the drive to be a better player.”

Hunt also was willing to give a brief description of who he is when he isn’t playing the game he loves.

“It’s kind of hard to describe yourself but I can give it a try. Most of my life has been driven by faith as my parents have had a strong Christian influence over me for my entire life. They raised me with those values and to use my faith to guide every aspect of my life. My mom has always reminded me that there’s a lot a person can do when they’re given an elevated platform in society. Specifically, this applies to me as a potential big league player whereas I would have the platform to live out my faith in my community in many ways.”

Next up was to talk about who has helped Hunt get to this point in his career and when he realized that he had true professional talent.

“My parents definitely have been the most supportive figures in my life and have provided me with every opportunity to get to where I am and I’m thankful for that. Without their guidance and support I wouldn’t have been in the right place to succeed. They sacrificed to send me to one of the best high schools in the country in Mater Dei, where I would be in the best league in the country and facing the stiffest competition consistently. As a late riser in the draft as all the analysts say, it wasn’t until my senior year that I started to garner attention from professional scouts. This was all because I flipped a switch to where I realized with a lot of hard work, my dream was within reach. It helped that I performed and played well in the right situations during the big tournaments and at the right times in front of the right people. Luckily I had a strong team this past year and in those big situations, I was able to feed off my teammates energy. Also, I’m extremely thankful to have been at Mater Dei because our programs are well known to produce talent in any sport. Without the school and all my coaches I wouldn’t be as well off as I am now.”

Faith is a big part of who Hunt in and he was happy to share how it has impacted him both on and off the field.

“On the diamond, it simply allows me to keep my head on straight. With all the blessings I’ve been given, it’s easy to lose sight of what got you there. Off the field, it reaffirms everything I’ve tried to model in my life and in relationships.”

 

Evan Massey is the Managing Editor for Lifestyle Sports 101. He is a sports writer who has also covered politics, entertainment, and many other things. He has seen his work featured on ESPN, Forbes, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports, and plenty of other online publications.