In high school, Blake Swihart received instruction at the Albuquerque Baseball Academy from Ryan Kellner, a former catcher in the Dodgers system. As he watched the promising young player, Kellner saw similarities to Russell Martin, so he suggested that Swihart experiment with life behind the plate. He also suggested that the righthanded Swihart try his hand at switch-hitting.
"If he walks into a showcase and teams see a 'C' for catcher and 'S' for switch-hitter, immediately there's some interest," Kellner said. "That's kind of how it came to where we put Blake, where people were forced to see his ability."
Blake starred with the U.S. national 18-and-under team in 2010, batting .448/.492/.845.
Swihart's high school senior season was highlighted by winning the Gatorade Player of the year in New Mexico.
Swihart committed to the University of Texas in 2011, his senior year at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. (But then he got drafted by the Red Sox. See below.)
In 2012, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Swihart as the 3rd-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. In the winter before 2014 spring training, they rated Blake as 5th-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system. And he was named the #1 best prospect in the Red Sox organization in the spring of 2015.
In 2013, Blake was named the Red Sox minor league Defensive Player of the Year.
Blake has exceptional agility and athleticism for a catcher. “I’ve always been able to run really well. I’ve got a really quick first couple steps. My dad had me play basketball for a couple years just so I could get my feet quicker so I can move. That’s what makes me different from most catchers, I believe,” said Swihart.
“I’m just kind of a different-looking catcher I guess. I feel really athletic back there. I can move really well back there. If I’m confident in myself to get in front of a ball that maybe someone else won’t get to, that may take me to the next level."
- Admitted extrovert, Swihart has found that the best way to learn and get better at his position is simply to ask for help from all the sources around him.
“If I have a question, I’m going to ask it, even if it’s a dumb question, I’m going to ask it. I’m going to go up to a pitcher and ask him, ‘Hey, what do you like in this situation? What do you like here? What do you like there?’” he said. “To be a catcher, you have to be a little bit vocal.”
January, 2015: MLB.com named Blake Swihart the best catching prospect in baseball.
May 2, 2015: Ever since Swihart was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2011 draft, he tried to envision what it would be like to throw on the gear and catch a game at Fenway Park.
A day after Ryan Hanigan suffered a broken bone in his right hand, Swihart got to find out.
It was an eventful debut which included Swihart's first career hit, a mad dash from first to home on a double by Mookie Betts, and a solid afternoon of execution with starting pitcher Miley. The only downer was that the performance came in a loss to the Yankees.
"I thought about it almost every day. It's a dream come true," Swihart said. (I Browne - Mlb.com - May 2, 2015)
In 2015, Arlan Swihart was in the stands at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City with roughly 200 friends and family members, experiencing a Father's Day weekend like no other.
Arlan looked behind the plate when the Red Sox were on defense, and saw his son squatting down with the gear on. Blake arrived in the Major Leagues on May 2, 2015, and he's the first to admit he never would have gotten there without his dad, who pushed him constructively during his youth in New Mexico.
"Ever since I was young, he's always been my coach," said Blake. "He showed me the fundamentals of the game. He showed me how to swing. He was my first hitting coach. Everything happens because of him. He kind of mapped out my plan for me, sports-wise, growing up."
An athlete himself, Arlan played college basketball and softball in highly competitive leagues.
"At some point, around the time he was 6, I figured out that he could catch everything I'd throw at him, which was probably in the mid- 80s," said Arlan. "I figured I should probably engage and try to coach him a little bit. The nice thing was he was extremely coachable. He's a pleaser. He wants to make everybody happy in the world, and he really works hard to do exactly what you want." "He texts me every single day," said Blake. "We talk every day. Sometimes, he'll text me, and he'll say, 'I think you're doing this, this and this. Think about it.' He watches everything and gives me feedback on everything. He's still my coach and dad at the same time." (Browne - mlb.com - 6/19/15)
Blakes dad, Arlan Swihart learned early that his son played until the last out. "It's amazing. I remember when he was 10 years old, we were playing in a semifinal game, a tournament, and we were undefeated," said Arlan. "A kid was up to bat and some of the kids on the bench were saying, 'We're going to lose, we're going to lose,' and Blake said, 'Come on guys. We're not going to lose this game. We haven't lost all year.'"Some of the kids again said, 'We're going to lose.' And Blake said to them, 'Let's hope [the next two batters] don't know that.' One of them got on base, and the other one hit a home run. We won. Blake doesn't know the word quit."Arlan made Blake quit basketball and football late in his high school career—only because he had his son's long-term interests in mind. "You just had to look at it realistically," said Arlan. "I think his senior year in high school, you could ask his high school coach, I think they would have won the states that year. They wound up making it to the final four. He was upset with me. I said, 'Blake, I'm just your dad, trying to figure this out."'"I also think he could have played college football and been very good with his arm strength and ability to see the field. But 6-foot quarterbacks in the NFL are few and far between. I'm a risk manager, and I had to weigh what the cost-benefits were. I think baseball was where he'd have the best opportunity."
Swihart first realized he had the potential to play professional baseball as a sophomore in high school. "I was throwing a bullpen at the (Albuquerque) Baseball Academy. I hit like 88-90," Swihart said. "And then we went to watch the (Triple-A) Albuquerque Isotopes play that night with my dad. And the pitcher there was throwing 88 to 90. I was, 'Hey, dad. I can do that.' He goes, 'If you work hard, you can.'"
Swihart, though, never considered his future to be as a professional pitcher.
"No, no. I knew I did not want to pitch," Swihart said. "I like hitting way too much."He pitched his first two years of high school, but his dad Arlan didn't let him pitch his final two years except one special (and now memorable) occasion. "Against my old high school," Swihart said. "He let me have 15 pitches to close the game out. The first pitch, I think it was 97 (mph). The second pitch was 97 and I hit the kid in the wrist and broke his wrist so ..."
Swihart received confirmation when he saw the batter the following day."He showed up with a cast," Swihart said. (Christopher Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org - March 9, 2017)
Blake was married in December, 2017.
2019 Spring Training: The tranquil nature of spring training was shattered for the Red Sox with the shocking news that Romell Jordan, 23, the younger brother of catcher Blake Swihart, died unexpectedly Wednesday morning. (Feb. 27, 2017 - Sean McAdam - Boston Sports Journal)
March 4, 2019: After an emotional weekend in which he attended his brother Romell Jordan’s funeral in New Mexico, Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart returned to Spring Training feeling thankful for all the support he’s received from the baseball community.
“I mean, it’s been an emotional time,” said Swihart in his first interview since his brother died suddenly at the age of 23.
“I’m doing a lot better now. Family’s doing good. Just the support, honestly everything has been awesome. The ceremony was good. Seeing all the flowers sent from everybody, all the messages I’ve received, not only by the team but all around baseball, it’s been great.”
Swihart was overwhelmed by how supportive his teammates were when he played the day after learning of Romell’s death, and how they stood on the top step for his at-bats and welcomed him back to the dugout after he got a single.
“It was special. I think [manager Alex Cora] said it the best: It was a game where everybody could have gone home, because we weren’t playing the Nationals [in the regular season] this year,” said Swihart. “I kind of didn’t think about them all being there until I took that first at-bat. It was special, a special moment, and being able to put on my uniform for him was awesome. “I mean, it just proves how close we are as a team. We’re really brothers. There’s times where, during the year, we’re with these guys more than we are with our own families. They’re family in their own right. It just shows how close we are as a team.”
Swihart provided the following tribute to his brother in an Instagram message: Today was very special for myself and my family! Romell would have been upset with me if I didn’t put on my uniform today. The support of my teammates, coaching staff, and front office the last couple of days has been tremendous. To honor my brother pre game and stepping into the box with everyone of my teammates at the top step sent my emotions flowing. It was a game that whoever wasn’t playing could have already been home, but everyone chose to stay. Truly shows that we are family and will do anything for each other. I’d also like to thank all of the fans and our friends who have reached out to me and my family. The support means the world and acknowledges how special of a man Romell was! From the bottom of my heart, from my family to yours, thank you.
Truly the happiest kid I have ever met!He would always walk into the room with a smile and his energy so contagious! He loved loving people and that made us all better human beings. Whatever he set his mind to, whether it be sports or work, he would never be out worked. If he ever lost he’d challenge you again and again.
I love you little bro, the minute you came into my life you changed it for the better and I thank you for that! I promise to take everything you have taught me and apply it everyday in life! I will always remember the days where I would come home and you were already there waiting for me on my couch. I know that day will come again. (I Browne - MLB,com - March 4, 2019)
April 11, 2020: Blake Swihart is staring at an uncertain future.
Swihart came to Rangers camp on a Minor League deal with no clear path to the Opening Day roster. Injuries might have increased his chances, but who knows who will be healthy when baseball returns? The competition for jobs is fierce. A catcher by trade, his most attractive attributes are an ability to switch-hit and play multiple positions.
That has 26th man written all over it, but there are others who could fit as the last player on the bench. That’s life “on the bubble” for any non-roster player, but Swihart was hardly fretting or complaining. Life was going great for him during his time in Spring Training.
The 28-year-old Swihart has been through worse -- much worse -- over a nine-year professional career that has taken him from first-round Draft pick and top catching prospect to damaged goods to Minor League free agent looking for a job.
“No, I am pretty happy right now,” Swihart said just before MLB suspended Spring Training. “My wife is pregnant, so it puts everything in perspective. I am having a lot of fun, the most fun I’ve had playing baseball. It’s just fun again.”
Feeling down? No chance. His brother Jace has been through worse. Swihart’s physical problems began when he sprained his left ankle running into the left-field wall at Fenway Park. Jace’s injury occurred on the battlefield of Iraq, where his leg was run over by an Army Humvee.
“Whether it is physically or mentally, it doesn’t compare,” Swihart said. “The guys in the military do stuff that a lot of people in the world can’t do. They experience a lot of things. Sometimes I’m his happy place when he comes out and watches me play. That’s great for me.”
Jace received an honorable discharge in 2007. It took 12 years before he was declared 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He now works at installing communication equipment in hospitals and forever will be a hero to his younger brother.
“He knows what I am thinking and how I deal with stuff,” Swihart said. “I like to stay positive and look at the bright side of things.”
That was difficult last spring. The Swihart family went through a traumatic experience when Romell Jordan took his life at the age of 23.
Swihart’s father and mother -- Arian and Carla Swihart -- had become Jordan's surrogate parents when he was a high school junior in Rio Rancho, N.M. Jordan was close friends with Blake’s younger sister Kacie and was distraught he might have to move out of state because of his parents’ divorce. The Swiharts agreed to take legal guardianship.
Jordan was an All-State running back at V. Sue Cleveland High School and received a scholarship to the University of New Mexico, with dreams of playing in the NFL. A torn ACL cut short his dreams of playing professionally, but he graduated from UNM in 2018. Less than a year later, he was gone.
“Him and my wife [Shelby] were close,” Swihart said. “He was my sister’s best friend when they were young. That’s how that whole situation started. He had called my mom, asking if he could come live with us. She said, ‘Only if we take guardianship of you.’ His parents agreed, put him in a better situation.
“He had the same rules that we lived under: get good grades. If you get bad grades, you can’t play sports. You’ve got to get a job. He ended up getting a Division I scholarship to play running back at the University of New Mexico. Got his degree and was working his tail off. That was a tough one for us.”
Swihart’s next Spring Training game with the Red Sox was memorable.
“The team rallied around me,” Swihart said. “I actually played the very next day and the entire team was in the dugout. Got a hit off Max Scherzer and everybody gave me a hug. That was a cool day.”
Swihart had been with the Red Sox since the organization selected him 26th overall in the 2011 Draft. Mookie Betts was taken in the fifth round, and they have been close ever since.
“He said he can’t wait to be Uncle Mook to my baby,” Swihart said.
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is another close friend. They both grew up in the Albuquerque, N.M., area and played on many teams together. At the time, Bregman was a catcher and Swihart was a shortstop. Their roles have flipped since then.
“It’s funny how it works out,” Swihart said. “When we step across those lines, he’s not my best friend anymore. After the game, we become best friends again.”
Betts and Bregman became stars. Swihart was Boston's starting catcher as a rookie in 2015, but the last four years have been marked by a series of injuries, demotions, position changes, being designated for assignments and a trade to the D-backs last April. He became a free agent in Septembe when he refused a Minor League assignment.
“A lot of injuries, tough injuries,” Swihart said. “I think everything is a learning curve. I am a firm believer sitting there watching baseball you can still get better even if your ankle is locked up in a boot. It’s just prepared me for whatever is ahead.”
The Rangers signed him with the promise to let him catch again. They saw how Danny Santana turned his career around with the Rangers last season and envision the same for Swihart. His reputation for excellent character and makeup was reinforced in Spring Training.
“It’s phenomenal,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He came as advertised. We knew the quality of person: tremendous worker, great teammate, great mindset every day, positive. Just carries himself really well. Obviously very competitive when he steps through the lines. Literally everything we want out of a player.”
So Swihart pushes forward and waits to see what happens. Maybe a backup catching job depending on the health of others (Robinson Chirinos, Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino are on the 40-man roster). A utility role is possible, but who knows how long the evaluation period will be between the time baseball resumes and Opening Day?
This is a difficult time for any non-roster player caught in limbo wondering where he is going to be when the season opens. For Swihart, it could be Arlington, Triple-A Nashville, another organization or back home in New Mexico.
Swihart won’t let it get to him. He has already been through too much.
“I have always been very positive,” Swihart said. “I’m a thoughtful person. I’m probably too nice of a person sometimes. Not saying if you make me mad I won’t kick your butt; I never want to have that stigma in a clubhouse or with people around baseball or people at home watching television thinking I am a bad guy. That’s how I want to live life and have people view me as a positive person. That’s never going to change.” (TR Sullivan - MLB.com - April 10, 2020)
June 2011: The Red Sox chose Blake with their first round pick, out of Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. He was Boston's compensation pick from the Rangers having signed 3B Adrian Beltre. Swihart was the highest-drafted player out of New Mexico since Shane Andrews in 1990, and it was the earliest Boston has taken a catcher since John Marzano in 1984.
Scout Matt Mahoney signed Swihart just before the August 15 deadline, for a bonus of $2.5 million, a franchise record for a position player. Blake shows a package of tools that draws comparisons to a young Buster Posey.
Jan 11, 2019: Blake and the Red Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $910 thousand.
April 19, 2019: The Red Sox traded C Blake Swihart and Future Considerations to the Diamondbacks for CF Marcus Wilson.
Oct. 2019: Swihart chose free agency.
Dec 16, 2019: The Rangers organization signed free agent Blake.
- Aug 25, 2020: The Rangers released Blake.
- Jan. 27, 2021: Nationals signed Swihart to minor league deal with spring training invite.
|Nickname:||N/A||Position:||C - LF|
|DOB:||4/3/1992||Agent:||Legacy Sports Group-Greg Genske|
|Birth City:||Bedford, TX|
|Draft:||Red Sox #1 - 2011 - Out of high school (NM)|
Swihart is a switch-hitting catcher with decent power from both sides. He started switch-hitting his sophomore year of high school (2009). He has a quick line-drive bat, natural power and a good feel for hitting.
Blake is especially impressive from the right side—his natural side—where he gets really good extension and lift. But he has more pull power as a lefthanded hitter.
He is an above-average hitter with potential to hit for average power. He keeps the bat in the hitting zone for a long time. He makes hard contact.
He can hit 15-20 homers per season when he reaches his prime.
Swihart worked on both of his swings by switching back and forth between hitting lefthanded and righthanded, regardless of the pitcher he's facing, early in his career.
His swing his fluid from both sides of the plate.
Blake is adding discipline, selectivity and more patience. He is also improving his pitch recognition. He is an aggressive swinger from both sides of the plate and has learned to take a more conservative two-strike approach.
But overall, his aggressive approach limits his walks. He displays good pitch recognition, typically swings at strikes and sends line drives screaming to the gaps.
- Though still stronger from the right side, Swihart shows above-average bat speed and bat control from both sides of the plate, and he won’t be beaten by velocity, while switch-hitting will limit his vulnerability to breaking balls. His swing is geared for line drives.
- Swihart is a little inconsistent with his swing because he's very aggressive and he'll chase some pitches out of the zone, especially early in the count. But he makes a lot of hard, line-drive contact that should produce average power once he adds strength and loft to his stroke.
- June 4, 2015: Swihart hit his first Major League home run. He became the youngest Red Sox catcher to hit a home run since Rich Gedman in 1982.
August 28, 2015: Swihart hit an inside-the-park homer off Carlos Torres.
- As of the start of the 2020 season, Blake's career Major League stats were a .243 batting average, 12 home runs and 155 hits with 67 RBI in 639 at-bats.
Blake is an impressive backstop, a very good, smooth catch-and-throw guy. He has good hands,blocking and receiving the ball well and an easy catching style. He has good athleticism.
He really only started catching regularly during the summer of 2010. But his natural ability allowed him to come on very quickly back there. He has quick feet and moves well back there. He's more athletic than most catchers.
"I never was a catcher in high school, so I had to learn how to do everything. Talk to everybody, talk to other catchers, talk to (Red Sox catching instructor) Chad Epperson, talk to all the coordinators and take in what I could take in that would help me the best.”
Blake blocks the hell out of the ball. In 2013, Swihart embraced a daily pre-game drill routine aimed at improving his ability to block pitches, which improved along his pitch framing and game management.
He works his fanny off back there, runs the defense and controls the game tempo impressively. In fact, the defining characteristic for Swihart is his supreme athleticism behind the plate. His flexibility allows him to block better and pop more quickly when gunning for base-stealers.
THROWING OUT BASE-STEALERS
Swihart has pop times that stay right at 1.95 seconds. And as he learned some better release mechanics, his pop times dropped to 1.75 to 1.85 seconds.
He has good footwork, a strong arm and has shortened his arm stroke.
Blake uses his strong legs to get out of the crouch quickly before firing the ball to 2nd base from his above-average arm. He has pop times of 1.85 to 1.95.
In 2012, Swihart threw out 31 percent of South Atlantic League basestealers.
He threw out a Carolina League high of 42 percent of attempting base-thieves in 2013.
With the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2014, Blake threw out 47 percent of base-stealers. And that led the Eastern League by nearly 10 percent. His pop times in 2014 were averaging about 1.9 seconds and getting below 1.8 on occasion.
- Blake moves well back there. He is very athletic.
Swihart receives high marks for his game-calling, leadership and ability to read opposing hitters.
"He's such a good athlete and he’s such a hard worker, and he’s really competitive in everything he does. He’s kind of taken that to his approach to defense,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said in Oct, 2013.
“He does a great job of separating the offense and defense. He’s always focused on the pitching-catcher relationship, and I think the athleticism and the hard work have paid off so he could take those steps forward to be an excellent defensive catcher in an organization that has a couple of pretty good defenders.”
- Swihart earned the 2014 Captain’s Catcher Award, given annually by Baseball America to the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues.
Blake has worked so hard at learning his position that he is now plus in all phases, whether it was receiving, throwing, calling the games, continuing to get better and better every day. It is a pleasure to see his enthusiasm every day and his desire to improve.
Swihart is really engaged in the game out in front of the plate, running the infield on plays and taking charge of the situation that the game dictates.
Before 2015 spring training, a Baseball America writer asked some scouts, "How many catchers are there like Swihart in the minors?
“There are none,” said one evaluator, a testament to his offensive and defensive potential as well as his head-turning athleticism. He has made huge strides behind the plate, where he now profiles as an above-average defender.
Evaluators marvel that he has the athleticism and speed to play virtually anywhere on the field—some even suggested he couldplay center or second—though behind the plate, he has a chance to be a two-way force.
- Blake added left field to his plate in 2016.And by late May he was was already tracking down balls in the gap in a way that highlighted his unusual athleticism and the above-average speed that make him a bit of a novelty as a catcher.
- Early in 2017, the Red Sox spoke highly of the improvements made by Swihart in his setup, permitting him to create a better target for pitchers and improve his framing ability.
Catching instructor Dana LeVangie noted that Swihart needs to refine elements such as blocking so that he feels more comfortable calling for secondary pitches that might bounce.
“It’s a really good option that we have Blake Swihart, who’s built his stock back up to where it needs to be for him and us. We’ve got a good thing . . .
“He needs to go out and play a lot, play when he’s feeling good and feeling tired, and learn how to be more consistent that way,” LeVangie said. “He’s not a finished product, but he’s making strides to become more effective back there.” (Alex Speier - Baseball America - 4/21/2017)
- Blake lacks speed. He is pretty slow on the bases, even for a catcher.
August 1-15, 2012: Swihart was on the D.L. with a strained hip flexor.
- July 1-20, 2015: Blake was on the D.L. with a sprained left foot.
June 5-Nov. 3, 2016: Blake was on the DL with a left ankle strain.That required the repair of his peroneal tendon sheath in the ankle.
April 30-May 26, 2017: A left finger contusion put Swihart on the DL.
July 5-August 13, 2017: Blake was on the DL with left ankle inflammation.
Aug 3-14, 2018: Blake was on the DL with right hammy strain.
- June 1-Aug 7, 2019: The Diamondbacks placed Swihart on the 10-day injured list (strained right oblique).