Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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Interview Conducted by David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

As we head into the holidays, there are many things for which we should all be thankful. Whether it's our health, our family, our friends, being Americans, our jobs, we all have things to appreciate.

Baseball fans, though, have one more thing about which we should be thankful. We should be thankful for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance from Minor Leaguers such as Blake Gailen to make the sport we love that much better.

Imagine being Blake Gailen. You’re talented. You play hard. You do all that you are supposed to do in high school. You letter in baseball all four years at El Camino Real High School and are named to the first team All-West Valley League as a junior and senior. However, for some reason, the scouts pass you up. They say you don’t have the “look” or the “build” of a Major Leaguer. You aren’t drafted.

So, you go to Junior College. You don’t give up the dream—you keep working at it. As a freshman in Junior College you win All-Western State Conference honors. You follow that up as a sophomore by winning All-Southern California accolades. However, again, you go undrafted for the same reasons.

So, you continue on to a 4-year college: UNLV. Undrafted as a junior, you continue on as a senior. Again, no pro offers come. The scouts keeping giving the same feedback about your build. How many of you would have hung up your cleats at that point?

Blake, however, continued into Independent Baseball. Over the next 4 years, he persevered, both as an outfielder and a pitcher. He excelled as a player, but no pro offers came. How many of you would continue to chase the dream of playing Major League baseball for four more years under those circumstances?

Unlike most, Blake defied the odds. On July 27th, 2011, Blake Gailen had his contract purchased by the Angels. Before you think that this was an easy decision, listen to Blake describe his status as a Minor Leaguer. Chasing the dream resulted in him taking nearly a 20% paycut. Again, how many of you would take a 20% paycut to continue to chase such an elusive dream?

The Angels assigned Blake to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. After getting off to a fast start, he ended the season with a .208/.322/.366 line in 29 games. He hasn’t given up the dream, and is trying to become one of the few Major League players to ever come entirely from Independent Baseball.

So, as we settle into the holidays, sit back, relax and listen to the struggles that players like Blake Gailen endure. And then, as baseball fans, give thanks that there are players like Blake Gailen out there working hard everyday, staying in shape, giving 110% every chance they have so that you can enjoy the great game of baseball.

Click here to listen to the AngelsWin.com interview with Blake Gailen.

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