DENVER (AP) — The center fielder for the Colorado Rockies features a scraggly beard, impressive mullet — pronounced “mu-lay,” he proudly says — and a personality that’s as quirky as it is meticulous.
His teammates have favorite Charlie Blackmon stories — how he misplaced his car after returning from a road trip only to realize he left it at the airport. Or how he knew a batting cage distance was off a smidge, and proved it by counting the steps.
“He’s weird,” fellow outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. “He’s doing weird (stuff) all the time. But that’s Charlie Blackmon.”
Idiosyncrasies and all, Blackmon’s become one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. He also has one of the catchiest walk-up songs in the game — the ’80s pop tune “Your Love,” by The Outfield.
Blackmon was recently named the NL player of the month after hitting .359 with five triples, six homers and 22 RBIs. His 42 hits tied the team record for May held by Dante Bichette (1995) and Todd Helton (2000).
To think, Blackmon doesn’t even feel locked in yet, either.
“If you’re not bad, but you’re better than bad — that’s where I’m at (hitting-wise),” said the 30-year-old Blackmon, whose team (36-23) has spent a majority of the season leading the NL West. “I’m just trying not to be bad.”
He’s known for being goofy, investigative and sometimes forgetful. He once tested the gas gauge on his Jeep Cherokee — the one he’s had forever — and ran out of fuel in the process, leading teammate DJ LeMahieu to help him out. Third baseman Nolan Arenado recounted the time Blackmon carpooled back from the airport after returning from a road swing only to remember his car was still there.
“Charlie is a little bit different,” Arenado said. “He has his own style to the game. That’s also what makes him who he is. He’s quirky. But when it comes time to lock in, and he puts on the uniform, he’s a different animal.”
About that beard — he began growing it in 2013 and, funny enough, it now even has a Twitter account in its honor.
Now, about that mullet — he said in a recent interview on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk ” that he goes with the French pronunciation for the word — hence, “mu-lay” — and that he’s going to grow it “as long as it takes.”
Simply Blackmon being Blackmon.
In high school, Blackmon was also a left-handed pitcher and was picked by the Marlins in the 28th round of the 2004 draft. A year later, he was selected in the 20th round by the Red Sox after a season with Young Harris College in Georgia. He attended Georgia Tech, where he switched from the mound to outfielder full-time and was taken by the Rockies in the second round in 2008.
All those innings on the mound pay dividends now because he said he has an understanding of what a pitcher might be thinking in certain counts. Ever ask him about his days as a pitcher?
“We don’t,” Arenado said. “He’s so good at hitting. We all want to know why he’s hitting so good.”
That’s easy — scrupulous work. Blackmon has manager Bud Black throw him sliders in the cage, just to hone his swing on breaking pitches. Blackmon also diligently watches film.
Then there’s his soft-toss routine, where he hits underhanded throws to hone his timing. First baseman Mark Reynolds never thought it was all that complicated until spending a session with Blackmon at spring training a year ago.
“I guess his timing was off or something,” Reynolds said. “He stepped (the distance) off from home plate to the L-screen and said, ‘No, we’re a step off. It needs to be 10 steps.’ I’m like, ‘What is this guy doing? It’s just flips.’ He’s got his intricacies and his strange things that he does, but it works for him.”
There’s a method to his precision, too, because he wants to be the variable in the equation and nothing else.
“They don’t pitch from 70 feet and sometimes 50 feet,” Blackmon said. “I’ll do the adjusting. I don’t want the cage to be the adjustment. … There are very specific reasons I do my things.”
It’s working. He’s hitting .328 and leads the majors in hits (79) and triples (eight).
His style doesn’t work for everyone.
“That’s what I tell everybody: If I do it, I would be super ridiculous,” Gonzalez said, laughing. “They’d be like, ‘What happened to you? You need to go to treatment. You’ve changed.’ If it’s Charlie, it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s good. It’s Charlie Blackmon doing it.'”
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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