Blanchard signs with Tampa Bay
by Brandon Miller
Jun 15, 2013 | 3729 views |  0 comments | 105 105 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CENTRE — It was as easy for Coty Blanchard to decide to leave Jacksonville State this week as it was for him to sign with the Gamecocks out of Cherokee County High.

After the two-sport athlete was picked last weekend in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball draft, he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, ending his football and baseball careers at Jacksonville State.

“I couldn’t ever bring back the memories I had during my three years of college, and if I could ever do it again I would,” Blanchard said. “I’m just thankful and blessed to be in this position right now. I couldn’t have done it without my family and the people at Jacksonville State. We’re just happy to be here and move forward.

“If the Rays didn’t agree to the terms that we were saying, then I was going to go back to football and finish out my senior year how I did everything else.”

Blanchard’s next move comes Monday when he moves to Princeton, W.Va., and joins Tampa Bay’s Rookie League team, the Princeton Rays. Blanchard’s first minor league season begins Thursday.

“I’m about to start hopefully a long career. This is where everyone starts, and everyone is at the same level,” said Blanchard, who added he thinks the Rays want him to play second base.

However, the Rays’ scout for the area, Milton Hill, said Blanchard may be moved, depending on what the team needs. Hill said the last second baseman he signed was David Dietrich out of Georgia Tech, who made his major league debut last month with the Miami Marlins.

“What we need from Coty is to go out and concentrate fully on baseball and see how good he can be,” Hill said. “I think he’s a major league player. Otherwise I wouldn’t have written the reports and drove all the way here to sign him.”

This isn’t Blanchard’s first time being drafted. The Baltimore Orioles drafted him in the 41st round in 2010. Instead of signing, the 2009 Mr. Football winner went to Jacksonville State to play football and baseball.

“It’s a long process when you go all the way back to when I first saw him play as a high school player. It’s a maturity process that you see them go through,” Hill said. “When I saw him as a high school player I thought he needed to get stronger because he’d be playing every day.”

While Blanchard knew he needed to continue to develop physically and mentally, there was one man who played a huge role in him choosing Jacksonville State, and that man was sitting beside him at the table as Blanchard signed his contract Saturday — former JSU football coach Jack Crowe, who recruited Blanchard out of high school.

Coty’s father, Fran Blanchard, gave thanks to Crowe and JSU baseball coach Jim Case.

“We were able to double up on the great coaches,” he said. “You could almost rest your case on that.

“I think it all went back to when Coty was a sophomore in high school and Coach Crowe offered him, and I asked Coach Crowe if he’d be here until the end, and he was.”

Along with Crowe, Cherokee County football coach Tripp Curry, Cherokee County baseball coach Jim Garmany, Munford football coach and former Warriors offensive coordinator Will Wagnon and Piedmont baseball coach James Blanchard were also present.

And with everyone who helped Blanchard get to this point, he became a professional.

“To be 21 and now to be about to leave Monday, I think he did his job. It’s been fun, though,” Fran Blanchard said. “If you look in my office it’s like, ‘Wow, did you really do all of this?’”

Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.
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