Baseball: Trahan returns to UL after globetrotting with national team
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 17, 2015
UL shortstop Blake Trahan (4) sprints to home plate to score a run off of a fly ball by outfielder Seth Harrison (27) during a game last season at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field in Lafayette. (Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)
He had the summer of his young life, globetrotting here, there and seemingly everywhere with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
His all-star team played games against domestic opponents in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and games against Chinese Taipei and Japan in North Carolina; visited The Netherlands for the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week; and traveled to Matanzas and Pinar del Rio, Cuba, for a Friendship Series against the host country.
Blake Trahan looks back a few months later, and the quiet kid from Kinder High — now in the first week of his junior season at UL, which visits Northwestern State for a non-conference game Wednesday — speaks loudly with a simple, wide smile.
“The summer was great,” he said of playing on a national team coached by St. John’s Ed Blankmeyer.
“Being able to play with the best baseball players in the world at the collegiate level was awesome. Being around some great coaches and traveling the world — it was awesome.”
Even though the Americans lost all five games there last July, the highlight for Trahan — by far — was his trip to Cuba.
“I enjoyed Cuba — just the atmosphere there,” he said. “It was crazy. It was like a European soccer game. I really enjoyed it.”
Attendance at one game on the island was around 11,000.
“And 11,000 there is a lot louder than it is here in America,” said Trahan, who manned second and third base in Cuba while LSU’s Alex Bregman played shortstop.
“It was unbelievable. Drums were banging, people were hollering. They’ll talk to you personally; they’ll try to give you a hard time. It was awesome.”
Now it’s back to reality, and the Sun Belt Conference baseball, where drums may not thump loudly but the atmosphere at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field — UL opens there with a three-game series vs. Stony Brooks that starts Friday — has a reputation of its own for fun and noise.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off a 58-10 season in which they reached the third game of an NCAA Super Regional vs. Ole Miss, and they’ve opened 2015 at 1-2 after winning the second game but dropping the first and third of a non-conference series last weekend at Texas-San Antonio.
UL returns only two full-time field starters from 2014, Trahan and outfielder Dylan Butler.
But Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux doesn’t want that fact to make Trahan — or any of his returnees — feel as if it’s all on them this year.
“He can’t try to shoulder this burden,” Robichaux said of Trahan, who went 5-for-15 at UTSA with one double and two runs scored. “He just can’t. He has to be one of our players; he can’t try to be the guy to get us 58 wins.”
If anyone has enough on-field credentials to take command, however, it would seem to be Trahan.
After his freshman season at UL out of Kinder, he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
The numbers from Trahan’s sophomore season speak for themselves: He hit .355 with 12 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 49 RBI, including .512 (21-for-41) in the postseason with two doubles, two triples, one homer and 12 RBI.
During and after last year’s 58-win season for the Cajuns, the accolades followed: ABCA/Rawlings first team All-American; Baseball America and Perfect Game second team All-American; one of three finalists for the Brooks Wallace Award, which recognizes the country’s top collegiate shortstop; Sun Belt Tournament MVP; All-SBC first team shortstop.
Prior to this season, recognition kept on coming: Perfect Game, Collegiate Baseball and DIBaseball second team All-American; Baseball America third team All-American; preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, which honors the country’s top player; Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year.
No matter how you slice it, he’s generally regarded as one of the nation’s top three college shortstops this year along with LSU’s Bregman and another teammate from the Collegiate National Team, Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson.
Trahan’s experience over the summer with those two and others — including Florida State outfielder DJ Stewart, another highly regarded draft prospect — is something the Cajun shortstop hopes he can parlay into big benefits in what could be, if the season unfolds as some suspect it could, his final year at UL before turning pro.
Baseball America has Trahan pegged as the top draft prospect in the Sun Belt, and Perfect Game calls him the 31st-best junior prospect in the country.
“Just being around the guys, seeing everybody else’s work ethic — it helps you understand yourself, and where you really were at,” Trahan said. “It helped me work harder … over the offseason. So, we’re ready to go now.”
Trahan may not have gotten any taller over the summer. But he did grow, and in ways he feels can benefit UL now.
Always intense, and with few flaws in his college game, he’s an even-better player.
He seems much less shy than he did as a freshman.
And he appears willing, even if Robichaux doesn’t want him putting it all on himself, to assume some of the leadership void created when the Cajuns lost several key seniors and six juniors to the minor leagues.
“The biggest key is leadership — creating a good vibe in the lockerroom and out on the field, just showing the young guys how to play and showing the young guys the way to go,” Trahan said last week. “The young guys have bought in, and have followed, and we’re meshing really well right now. We’re a close team.”
UL (1-2) at NORTHWESTERN STATE (1-3)
WHAT: Single non-conference game
WHERE: Brown-Stroud Field, Natchitoches
WHEN: 4 p.m.
RADIO: KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker
PITCHING MATCHUP: UL freshman LHP Gunner Leger (0-0, 9.00 ERA in one appearance) vs. sophomore LHP Austin Tanner (0-0, 0.00 ERA in one appearance)
ABOUT THE CAJUNS: This is the fourth straight road game for UL, which won only the middle outing of a season-opening non-conference series at Texas-San Antonio last weekend. … 2B Brenn Conrad is hitting a team-high .667 in six at-bats; CF Derek Herrington (.429) is second. … Herrington, Stefan Trosclair and Joe Robbins all homered last weekend. … UL leads the all-time series 81-48 and has won five straight over NSU, including two victories last season.
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: Northwestern State lost the first three games of a season-opening four-game series at Troy last weekend, but snapped the streak with a 9-5 victory over the Trojans on Sunday. … C CJ Webster is batting a team-high .375 and has a team-leading five RBI. … The Demons, who have dropped 13 of their last 17 vs. the Cajuns, visit UL on March 4 for a single game.
The start time for UL’s baseball game Wednesday night at Northwestern State has been moved up to 4 p.m. due to a forecast of cold temperatures, the Ragin’ Cajuns announced.
The game will be broadcast by KPEL 1420 AM.
Original start time had been 6 p.m.