Diamonds in his future

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AUBURN – Like a lot of young men at St. Dominic’s Regional High School, Brady Blackman had visions of hockey glory when he enrolled.

And sure enough, Blackman had a distinguished career as a goaltender at St. Dom’s that he may one day look back upon and smile.

But thanks to another proud day that Blackman can recall, June 18, 2005 to be exact, baseball has become foremost in the senior’s future.

That’s when he tossed a three-hitter against George Stevens Academy and led the Saints to their first baseball Class C state championship, putting St. Dom’s baseball on the map and himself on the call lists of many recruiters.

“I think the state game brought him to a reality that he could compete with anybody,” said his father, St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman, who has coached Brady at every level except Legion. “I think he fought the stigma in baseball for the first couple of years of being in Class C. After the state game, he played Legion (for New Auburn) with some of his old buddies (from) Class A, EL guys, and he was probably one of the better guys on the team. That just reinforced him even more. Then we started to get the college coaches calling.”

The interest, and Blackman’s confidence, grew when he joined the Frozen Ropes college prospect team and had the second-highest batting average, lowest ERA and most strikeouts on the team.

Baseball became his main focus over the fall and winter. He started throwing at USM three times a week, working with an athletic trainer two days a week. and received instruction from USM standout and Houston Astros pitching prospect Tip Fairchild at Frozen Ropes. Blackman learned a lot from Fairchild, including just how interested USM coach Ed Flaherty was in having the right-hander join his program. Flaherty, in turn, used the Monmouth righty as an example for Blackman to follow, and that helped Blackman choose the Gorham university over numerous other suitors.

“Tip’s someone coach Flaherty uses as a standard for players,” Brady Blackman said. “He came in as a freshman and was a small guy who wasn’t throwing that hard. (Flaherty) says if you’re like Tip and you want to get better you can. Whoever wants to work the hardest can make it as far as they want. That’s what I’m looking to do.”

One of the first things he needed to do was grow from a somewhat pudgy sophomore to solid specimen senior. Blackman credits his former winter pursuit with helping him develop physically.

“I realized playing hockey that I had to get in better shape,” he said. “I got in better shape between my sophomore and junior year for hockey, and it carried over to baseball.”

He won eight of nine decisions last season as the Saints’ ace led the state in strikeouts with a blazing fastball that clocked in the low 80s and a devastating slider that has been his best pitch since the state game.

Touted as one of the best pitchers in the state coming into this season, Blackman was determined to go into April with a stronger arm. His fastball now tops out in the mid 80s, thanks in part to a daily long-toss program where he often throws the ball more than 280 feet on a line.

“I’ll start out at, like, 30 feet and progressively move back 10 steps until I can’t throw on a line. I don’t throw any lobs,” he said. “I think that’s key because it stretches out you arm.”

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