Alex Blagojevich learned how to play the outfield years ago in Tampa, Fla. The senior political science major is now a seasoned veteran and is flourishing in the outfield. Playing on an island has different obstacles that the infielders don't experience. In the outfield your opportunities are few and your margin for error is even smaller. As the last line of defense, a good outfielder must play with both skill and aggression. The position is one that Alex knows a lot about.
When asked why playing the outfield is different than playing the infield, Alex said, “When in the infield your eyes have to remain focused on the batter at all times. In the outfield you have a large gap to cover and you have to take the right angles to make a play on the ball. We have to cover a lot of ground when our number is called, but infielders are involved more but in a small area. The better outfielders involve themselves as much as possible backing up the other outfielders."
Off season training is something that is crucial to success on the diamond. Alex stays sharp by playing summer ball with different leagues. He recalls, "In the summer I try to stay really active. Last summer I played in the Central Illinois College League, where we play 40 games. It is very similar to our season. It keeps me in playing shape along with lifting and batting practice." The body is not the only tool needed to perform at the top, it also requires mental toughness. Alex recognizes the mental aspect of the game and said, "Concentration. That's the main thing needed when your out there alone in the outfield. If the pitcher is dominating and it's a slow game, you still have to remain ready for that one ball. If I mess up a batter can grab an extra base or two, maybe three. You definitely have to be aggressive, even with your back against the fence you can't be scared. You have to know where you are at all times. Communication is also key. The other outfielders help each other with calls to let each other know how much space we have to make a play on the ball.”
Most people would think that the outfield position would have an extra level of pressure. In the outfield when a fly ball is caught spectators may take that for granted. But, if the ball is dropped, no one will hesitate to point it out. Alex doesn't feel that there is extra pressure on him, "I know my teammates are counting on me, but I'm also counting on them. I love my position, it's great. I have a role and I have to get the job done and fill it. I just have to know the situation and make good plays and good decisions."
The outfield is a unique position in baseball and even in sports. It is a position sometimes underappreciated, but in the big games it is essential for the win. The outfielder must know where they are at all times and how much room they have until they collide into the fence. The speed and quickness to cover the large outfield gaps is also necessary. The most important characteristic that an outfielder must possess is concentration and the mental edge. The mental edge is necessary when the last play you've had was two innings ago.
Suddenly, the batter hits a pop fly directly at you and it's up to you to make the grab. Always ready and able to come up big in the clutch is what separates the good players from the great. Alex is definitely making the most of his opportunities and he will have nothing to worry about out there on the island if he follows his own advice. If Alex and rest of the Quakers baseball team continue to play hard and work as one unit, the season will surely be successful.
Written by Von Bryant W’07