While his Jacksonville State football teammates are going through off-season workouts and preparing for the start of two-a-days, Blanchard is working on his second passion playing for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Summer League.
It’s as close to being a seven-day-a-week ballplayer as one can get without getting paid for it.
“At first I didn’t know what to expect; I just knew it was going to be really good,” the rising junior from Cherokee County said by phone from Massachusetts earlier this week. “Six games in a row takes a toll on your body, but I’ve kind of adjusted to it.
“It’s actually made me want to do it more — play baseball every day. It’s pretty cool having your job being a baseball player, just wake up and go to the field and play baseball six days in a row. It’s kind of like a dream job.”
But it’s not a permanent gig — yet — and he knows all too well what awaits back home. Once he gets back to Alabama he’ll go back into the mix as quarterback and punter on the Gamecocks’ football team.
When that happens is a matter of question. Blanchard’s Commodores are currently in second place in their division, and the Cape Cod League draws the top four teams from each division for the playoffs. If the Commodores are fortunate enough to make it to the finals, Blanchard will be on the diamond all the way to Aug. 17 — two weeks before the Gamecocks’ football opener at Arkansas.
“It will just be a matter of giving him a package so he can help us play in the first game,” JSU football coach Jack Crowe said. “Coty is just a football player. (If) he gets back on the 17th, we’re going to get him ready to help us win the game.
“He’s special, now. I may be the only one who knows how special he is. He’s real special as a competitor. When it comes to him competing, don’t ever count him out — any game, any play, any sport.”
That’s been evidenced by his summer on the Cape. He left JSU as a versatile infielder and in all likelihood will come back as an outfielder — or at least with outfielder skills. Injuries on the roster have left Blanchard to find his name listed in left field on the Commodores’ lineup card.
As always, he’s adapted.
“I’ve gotten used to it out there,” he said. “Any time you can play multiple positions it’s going to help me out in the draft.
“It’s kind of been fun. It was a lot harder than what I thought it would be. I thought all you do is catch pop flies. It’s a lot harder than that. It’s getting a lot easier now.”
Perhaps the most thrilling of the experience was the day he spent in Fenway Park, trying to hit and then play balls off the ballpark’s famed Green Monster.
“It was fun trying to hit one over the Monster; it takes an absolute bomb,” he said. “It was unbelievable how big it was. It was hard to judge.”
It’s been a long year for Blanchard and it ultimately impacted his effectiveness by the end of the college baseball season, but he has seemed to have regained his second wind, putting the sophomore slump behind him.
The demands began when he was thrust into the starting quarterback role after senior Marques Ivory fractured his fibula early in the season opener against UT Martin. The pounding he took on the gridiron caught up to him on the diamond. He lost his effectiveness at the plate and in the field and by the end of the baseball season was a role player at best. He played in only six of the Gamecocks’ final 14 games (going 2-for-16) and finished the season hitting .230 — 100 points below his average as a Freshman All-American — with 13 RBIs
Going into the weekend’s games on the Cape, Falmouth was in second place in the West Division and Blanchard was batting .284. Both of his coaches back home — Crowe and JSU baseball coach Jim Case — were excited to report Blanchard’s batting average climbed over .300 earlier this week.
“From the outside looking in you could make that assessment (about the toll of a long year), but I’ve never been one to make excuses about that,” Blanchard said. “I knew what I was getting mself into when I made myself a two-sport athlete. It’s something I have to deal with and something I have to be better with my body and whatever it takes to get from baseball to football.
“Me playing both helps me out playing both. I’ll never say, ‘What if I played one or the other?’ I’ll never go back and say that.”
He has caught the eye of the numerous scouts who camp out on the Cape. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school and reportedly was considering a six-figure deal to choose between turning pro and being a two-sport athlete at JSU.
Once he returns to Alabama, he and father Fran plan to discuss the possibilities for advisors and moving forward. Coty is eligible for the major league draft this June.
Until then, he’ll stay focused on his two-sport agenda. That means finishing up at the Cape, getting back for football practice, then moving on to a JSU baseball spring.
“I would love to finish out like that,” Blanchard said. “I’d love to be the guy who finishes out college in two sports and made a name in both. I’d love to win a national championship in both. That’s what I want to do. Hopefully it’ll work out.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.