In 2004, Blackmon was drafted as a pitcher by the Marlins out of high school (28th round). In 2005, the Red Sox also drafted him as a pitcher after his freshman year at Young Harris Jr. College in Georgia (20th round). But after an injury and a transfer to Georgia Tech, he became an outfielder.
In the summer of 2007, Charlie disembarked for Grand Prairie, Texas, to play in a college summer league, but there was only one problem: his left arm bothered him.
So when he showed up, he told manager Rusty Greer, the former Rangers outfielder, that he was an outfielder. The first chapter in a strange tale of Charlie Blackmon’s emergence as a big league all-star was being written.
“I was coming back from bone spurs and was super inconsistent,” Blackmon remembered. “I wasn’t very good. But I wanted to play baseball. I hit a little bit in junior college (he spent two years at Young Harris JC in Georgia), but I had not played a position since high school. It wasn’t like I thought I was going to be a great hitter. I just wanted to get on the field.”
By the end of the summer, Blackmon was an outfielder—period.
In 2008, his first year as a hitter, Blackmon led the Yellow Jackets in batting and was among the team leaders in nearly every offensive category.
- In 2008, Charlie got drafted by the Rockies (see Transactions below).
In 2009, Baseball America rated Blackmon as the 10th-best prospect in the Rockies' organization. In the spring of 2010, they had Charlie as #12 in the Rockies' farm system. And they had him at #11 in the winter before both 2011 and 2012 spring training.
During 2011 spring training, Blackmon hit .314/.400/.486 in 19 Cactus League games with one homer, six RBI and the same number of walks (five) as strikeouts in 35 at-bats before being reassigned to minor league camp.
Charlie impressed then-Rockies manager Jim Tracy after he was brought up to the Majors in June 2011.
"He's very composed," Tracy said. "He's very grounded. He's got a real good idea of what his skill set is and how it plays into the grand scheme of things. He plays his butt off from the first pitch of the game.
"Another thing I find very, very intriguing, he's got an edge to him that when the game starts, the body language and the facial expression basically suggest, 'Don't bother me right now.' And I love that."
Tracy envisioned Blackmon as a future leadoff hitter.
"He has an understanding of base-stealing," Tracy said. "He has an idea of the strike zone. He's not afraid to be aggressive. He can run. And he's got some power." (June 27, 2011)
July 1, 2011: Charlie recorded his first MLB home run on his 25th birthday. He was pinch-hitting.
No one is more surprised by Charlie Blackmon's success than, well, Charlie Blackmon. "Every offseason I sit down and I say, 'What are the adjustments that I need to make to make my game better?' So I try to come back every year a little bit better. I think the big thing that got me over the hump was that I was able to start this year in the big leagues."
And while Blackmon himself may be surprised by his own success, those who are around him most are not. Colorado teammate Jordan Pacheco has known Blackmon since 2008, when both played at Class A Tri-City in Washington. Pacheco, asked to talk about his relationship with Blackmon.
"First impression was that he was really lanky," Pacheco recalled. "He seemed very uncoordinated. He was pretty unorthodox the way he did stuff, especially in the outfield."
Uncoordinated? Probably because Blackmon was primarily a beanpole of a lefthanded pitcher through high school. But it didn't take long for him to adjust to life as an outfielder after his arm started getting sore. In any case, Pacheco is happy to see his friend succeed.
"It's definitely nice to see him having the success he's having," Pacheco said. "I know how much work he puts into it. I know how much he studies the game. When you see that out of somebody and you're with them when they aren't doing really well, when they're doing well, you appreciate them a little bit more. (5/15/14)
"It's really nice to go from a guy who doesn't play quite as much as you would like to, to (2014) I got an opportunity early on and made the team for the first time," Blackmon said. "I've played well early, so now I got a new role on the team and that role is to play pretty regularly. That's been my dream, my goal, for a long time."
"Mentally it's [getting used to playing] every day. You're having to grind every day. If you don't do well one day, you don't have a day off to stop and think about it. You've got to come back the next day ready to play. You can't dwell on it. Those are the two big things.
"And there's a lot more preparation. I don't have all game to watch a guy pitch and then just get one pinch-hit at bat. I've got to be ready to go from the start, and I've got to be familiar with the bullpen. They're making adjustments and I'm trying to make adjustments to them. They're starting to pitch me a little differently than they did at the beginning of the year, so it's a cat-and-mouse game. Everybody's constantly adjusting."
All in all, though, Blackmon considers himself just an ordinary Georgia guy who likes fishing and flying. (He dreams of flying in a military jet someday). Oh yeah, and playing a little baseball now and then.
"I feel like I'm the same guy. I don't feel any different," Blackmon said. "I try not to act any different. I don't think doing one thing or another and becoming successful—that shouldn't allow you to go out and try to be something completely different. I don't change a whole lot. I don't consider myself famous. I might get recognized if I walk right out of the stadium in downtown Denver right after a game.
Maybe it's Pacheco who said it best. "He's not a materialistic guy. He just likes to play baseball," Colorado's catcher said of his friend. "That's what keeps him grounded. That's what keeps him being Charlie Blackmon." (Zahneis - mlb.com - 5/15/14)
Blackmon borders on obsessive with video study. The holder of a bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in finance from Georgia Tech, Blackmon is logical and stubborn. He takes into account coaching and outside analysis, but sees base-stealing as so personal that all decisions are his own. He also is known for having one of the most time-consuming post-game weight-training routines on the club. (Thomas Harding / MLB.com/2015 )
2015 Offseason: Blackmon was scheduled to be a guest star on "The Most Wanted List" on the Sportsman Channel, which fits in nicely with a hunting and fishing schedule that includes jaunts to Tennessee, Idaho, Florida and through his home state of Georgia. (Thomas Harding / MLB.com/2015 )
January 2016: The baseball offseason is endless, especially if your team didn’t reach the postseason. Blackmon’s Rockies won only 68 games last season, so he’s been relaxing for almost four months and is probably running out of ways to kill time before pitchers and catchers report in February.
So why not go to a Denver Nuggets game and hit a half-court shot with your back to the basket? (Dave Lozo /Dime Mag.)
THE SPLIT MIND OF CHARLIE BLACKMON
When a Rockies game at Coors Field drags out on a slow summer night, fans see Blackmon's head pop onto the big-screen scoreboard. His long beard chuckles out one-liners. It's a running stadium joke. He's lovable, laughable Charlie.
The other Blackmon is standing below the board in center field, hyper-focused on the next batter, the one who walks off the field after a game and straight into a batting cage until midnight. It's a stressful sight, seeing Blackmon, covered in dirt and still wearing a game on his sleeve, charge into a weight room late at night for even more work, knowing there is another game the next day for him to do it all over again.
"I've seen both sides of him," said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. "It's not a mask. Charlie's not an act. He's got a great personality, but when he needs to lock it in, he locks it in. I see a guy who works with a purpose. He takes baseball very seriously." (Nick Groke - denverpost.com - March 14, 2016)
Walt Weiss was caravaning somewhere on the trail from Boise, Idaho, to Grand Junction when he first met the other Charlie Blackmon. "I'd managed him for a whole year when he first came up," Weiss said. "Then I was with him at some function away from the field. He was laughing it up with fans. And I was like, 'Who is this guy?' I'd only ever seen serious Charlie."
There are two Charlie Blackmons. One of them hit a half-court shot during a timeout at a Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center and ran off the court like Harpo Marx. The other was standing in the Rockies' clubhouse in 2016 spring training arguing with a sportswriter about spin-rate pitch data and outfielder route efficiency.
"I always talk about how the ideal athlete, as far as their makeup, should be schizophrenic," Weiss said. "And Charlie really takes that to heart. It's amazing the transformation he makes when he walks in the door. It's as extreme as I've seen it."
The Rockies have entrusted a roomy home outfield and their leadoff spot on the split brain of Blackmon. He's a fan favorite and a player's player—a comedic character like Jason Giambi and a new-age wonk like Troy Tulowitzki. It's a bit of pop psychology, but it fits to read into Blackmon's dual personality. After he finally found a place on the Rockies' Opening Day roster in 2014, his beard grew longer. Fresh-faced Charlie with the big smile retired. Dusty, grinder Charlie took over.
"I try not to let baseball chew me up all the time," said Blackmon, age 29. "I have more of a role now, so I can be more comfortable in my own skin. That's the hardest part about the game—adjusting to the atmosphere, adjusting to the stakes. It's not another Triple-A game where 5,000 people come to the park and it doesn't really matter because you're hitting .300. It's more like, now you're hitting .160, you made a shaky play on defense, and you're 0-for-3 and you have to salvage your day in the last at-bat. Then you go home and if you didn't get a hit, you have to get your mind right before the next day."
Baseball is a brutal game that plays no fools. It nearly ate up Blackmon on his way to the Majors. He lasted by cleaving his mind in two — @Chuck_Nazty is Blackmon's mental break. He can crack wise on social media about fishing and burritos without anybody seeing him yell at the Statcast guy for scouting information.
"It's just hey, this funny tweet where I did something dumb," Charlie said. "Every day you come here, you know you can make history that day and be on SportsCenter or your career could end. It's not like you can just show up and mess around and not take things seriously and not prepare."
A converted pitcher, Blackmon reinvented himself as an outfielder, then a fractured foot and a staph infection turned a promising Rockies prospect into a survivor. Charlie reworked himself into an unlikely elite base-stealer. His 43 steals trailed only speedsters Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton. In 2015, Blackmon was the only player in the Majors with 15 home runs and 40 steals. Blackmon was racing to make up time. And just as he established himself as a Rockies regular, the club is retooling for the future.
"It's easy to get lost in the shuffle," he said. "I didn't make my first team until I was 27. That's kind of old. I was 26 years old, and I'm like, 'No good baseball player has ever been 26 years old and not been on the baseball team.' If you're 26 and you're going to be good at some point, you've already made the team. To get there, I learned a lot of mental toughness." (Nick Groke - denverpost.com - March 14, 2016)
2016 Spring Training was a time for baseball players everywhere to get in shape, work out the kinks in their swings, and, if you're Yoenis Cespedes, show off your new $75 million contract by arriving at practice every day for a full week in a different swanky sports car.
On the other end of the Spring Training automobile spectrum, meanwhile, is Rockies' outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who continues to drive a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee—the same car his parents gave him in high school.
"This is my car. Nobody else has this car," Blackmon, who will make $3.5 million this season, said proudly.
Blackmon's car may not turn heads for the same reasons Cespedes' flotilla of flashy whips will, but he did recently replace the headlights. The car isn't always reliable, though. Back in January, the 29-year-old ran out of gas on the highway and needed a teammate to pick him up. Some of Blackmon's teammates aren't too fond of the trusty old Jeep. Fellow outfielder Carlos Gonzalez thinks it's an eyesore.
"It's not even fun to look at it," Gonzalez said.
Blackmon has no plans of upgrading. In his trunk, Blackmon keeps his finger-less weightlifting gloves, a Wiffle ball bat, and fishing gear. Because really, what else do you need in life? (Emmett Knowlton - MLB - Mar 23, 2016)
The ball teased Myron Blackmon's eyes. For more than two months, he'd knocked off decades of rust in a batting cage, all to take his dream swing during Rockies 2016 Fantasy Camp. So, forgetting that many years ago he coached youth players not to, he fired at a pitch at eye level.
"What do you tell a little guy when they're young and learning to hit? 'Lay off the high fastballs,'" Blackmon said. "As a coach, that was the bane of your existence. The ball looks so big and fat and easy to hit. Guess what I did? I struck out."
This time Charlie, then the little boy who would every now and then have to drag his little bat to the bench and now a star for the Rockies, was the Fantasy Camp coach. So, was there "atta boy" followed by a reminder and a juice box?
"Charlie lost it," Myron said. "I actually got fined in Kangaroo Court. That was the big gotcha."
Charlie readily credits his father with stoking his love for the game. "It was cool because we kind of changed roles," Charlie said. "Growing up, he always coached me. He was the inspiration-giver and teacher of lessons. And there I am standing in front of the group and him being a part of the team. His dad loved baseball. He loves baseball. He coached and was always there to play catch, throw me batting practice and have the team cookout."
Living in fast-growing Gwinnett County, Georgia, Myron had to take an extreme measure to make sure they could play. "It was so busy and so crowded that I literally had to go and camp overnight in January 2017 at the facility where they were doing signups, so that we could make sure," the elder Blackmon said.
It wasn't as if he was sure his son would grow up to be arguably the most productive leadoff hitter in the National League over the last four seasons.
"He was always very astute and a student of the game," Blackmon said. "Even when he played football, he was a quarterback and he and the coach would be on the sideline making up plays as the game went on. But that powerful body, that came from going to college and working beyond to build it. When he was young, he was very thoughtful, very analytical."
Charlie figured inviting his dad to camp that winter was in a small way a show of appreciation for the time and guidance. Myron delighted in the resulting sore muscles. "I won an award, the Ice Man Award, and got a trophy for the most time with the trainer and in the ice baths," he said. "It's awesome."
He even appreciated his son's giving him a hard time. Next time, maybe Dad will lay off the high fastball. "He always tells me, 'Stop swinging at high fastballs,'" Blackmon said. "I say, 'Dad, I don't think you understand.' Sure enough, he swings at every pitch that's not over his head but above his shoulders." (Harding - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
A few years ago, Blackmon jetted off to the east coast of Australia for an offseason getaway. The following winter, he grabbed a backpack and passed through London, Paris, Nice, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Frankfurt on a three-week jaunt before returning home to Georgia. At age 28, he slept in hostels and experienced what he calls the “whole college, walkabout thing."
“I don’t want to be narrow-minded,’’ Blackmon says. “I think it’s good to broaden your horizons a little bit, gain some perspective and interact with people who have completely different backgrounds than you. I think it’s made me a better person and helped me appreciate my life more.”
“There’s an everyday performance that shows up,” Rockies manager Bud Black says. “He’s durable. He brings a workmanlike attitude every day that I think we all see and admire. It’s the pregame routine. He doesn’t give away at-bats. He grinds from pitch one to the last pitch of the game both on defense and at plate. He’s engaged during the game. There are so many intangibles, it rubs off on guys. He’s such a big part of our group.”
Rockies-watchers who are paying close attention will see more than a player who’s finally blossoming at age 30. Blackmon has a bachelor’s degree in finance and an affinity for chess and other strategy games. He’s an ardent fly fisherman, a skilled juggler and an engaging Twitter personality who dispenses entertaining insights under the handle @Chuck_Nazty.
Peer beyond the massive beard, the eye black and the shades, and you’ll find a player with a “most interesting man in the baseball world” quality about him.
“Charlie walks to the beat of his own drum, there’s no question,” said broadcaster Cory Sullivan, a former Rockies outfielder. “But he’s brilliant. He sees the game of baseball from a different perspective. He can remove himself from it and be really objective and think, ‘What can I do to make the people around me better?’ It’s like a meta-awareness that not many people have.”
Blackmon’s constant quest for self-improvement has helped him transcend some challenging circumstances in pro ball. He converted from a pitcher to an outfielder at Georgia Tech and received a $563,000 bonus as a second-round pick in 2008. But in the minor leagues, he was always behind someone else in the prospect pecking order, such as first-rounders Tim Wheeler and Kyle Parker. (Jerry Crasnick - ESPN.com - 6/23/2017)
- Blackmon steps in the batter’s box to the accompaniment of the 1985 pop single “Your Love” by The Outfield. As the refrain “I don’t want to lose your love tonight” blares, the volume goes down and the home crowd belts out the word “tonight!” in unison. It’s the most interactive, fan-bonding experience at Coors Field since the diehards in Denver were doing the Troy Tulowitzki “Tulo’’ chant.
July 5, 2017: Blackmon participated in the Home Run Derby.
July 21, 2017: Charlie finally met the "Charlie Blackmon Kid." His real name is Tommy Carlson, and he's from the Denver suburb of Parker. The 2-year-old became an Internet sensation after video of him watching Blackmon being introduced at the MLB All-Star Game in Miami on July 11 went viral. In the video, Carlson is seen watching the television intently, screaming,
"It's Charlie Blackmon! He's here! Charlie Blackmon! Yes! Charlie Blackmon!" when Blackmon was announced in the National League's starting lineup. It was pretty great.
Upon seeing Blackmon in person, however, Carlson was much more reserved.
"I'm much more scary in person, I guess," Blackmon said. "He clammed up a little bit, got a little intimidated, I think. But he came over to me right away, which apparently he doesn't do a lot. There wasn't a lot of dialogue, but it was fun. It was nice to meet him. "He's pretty famous now; I feel like he's been on TV more than the Rockies have lately."
Blackmon said he loves being around kids, noting that his demeanor suits the situation perfectly. "I'm on like a third-grade personality level," Blackmon said. "I think that's right in my wheelhouse there. I read real good though." (M Randhawa - MLB.com - July 22, 2017)
Charlie has always embraced study. One doesn't graduate with the highest honors from Georgia Tech, in finance, without it. But truth be told, he believes the increased homework that pitchers are forcing him to do is for the birds.
Blackmon's 2017 performance means pitchers are throwing the strategy book at him. It means more pregame video work and reading.
"They're trying to make me make adjustments," Blackmon said. "I think I can make those adjustments. But sometimes it makes baseball less fun. You have to go up there and, instead of being aggressive and playing the game, you have to go up there, and your main priority is not to swing at a ball because they're trying to not throw you a strike. That makes baseball boring to me. But if they want to play boring baseball, I'll give it my best shot. I don't know that I enjoy the study. I enjoy being prepared when the game starts."
There's nothing dull about his performance. With 9 games left in the 2017 season, Charlie was leading the league in batting average, had 94 RBIs from the leadoff spot (an NL record; he has driven in one other run), and ranks fifth in the NL in OPS at .998.
But the challenge from pitchers means Blackmon can't take anything for granted. He's simply trying to stay ahead in the batter's box.
"I go out there and get beat every night," Blackmon said. "There's lots of room for improvement. There are lots of things I can do better. That helps me keep pushing to adjust and keep pushing to enjoy that competition."
Blackmon also insists the playoff race has not been a distraction. "To me, it feels the same," Blackmon said. "I'm trying hard every time I go out there. That's the best place for a player to be, mentally. That way they're not giving away at-bats." (Harding - mlb.com - 9/21/17)
Charlie started growing his beard after the 2013 season. Then he made the All Star team in 2014, and he hasn't shaved since.
Charlie has heard the murmurs relating to the beard that cloaks nearly his entire face, and the mullet that has morphed with it. He's been called a lumberjack look-alike and confused for an extra on "Sons of Anarchy," among other far-flung comparisons.
"It makes my face really dark," Blackmon said of the beard, slowly beginning to grin. "Like, it's hard to know what's going on under there. I wear the eye black and sunglasses a lot of times, so I kind of like that persona -- like I'm a machine or something. I don't have a face or facial expressions. I'm just a 'Terminator' or something."
In his second All-Star season, Colorado's bearded wonder has become one of the most recognizable players in baseball, and it's not just because of the beard. Blackmon is leading the Major Leagues in hits, runs, triples and total bases, and he is trying to become the first player in history to lead the Majors in all four categories. (Stan Musial was the last player to lead the NL in all four categories in 1948, and Snuffy Stirnweiss did it in the American League in 1945, but no one has ever done it across both leagues.)
For sporting one of the game's signature looks, Blackmon is noncommittal when asked what it would take to shave. A meticulous baseball junkie, the Rockies center fielder said, "I think I just grew it and liked it, and I just stuck with it. I haven't put that much thought into it."
Elaborating on its foundation, Blackmon said renditions of his beard have cropped up via various personal and career milestones through the years, birthed from superstition and self-discovery.
Blackmon grew his first beard after his first season in the Majors, in 2011, which was cut short due to a broken leg. Shelved for the season, and with Colorado's blessing, Blackmon returned for his final semester at Georgia Tech that fall, completing his finance degree with the school's highest honors.
"I kind of told myself I wouldn't shave it until I could walk again, which took like four months," Blackmon said. "And then when I was able to move around a little bit and showed up at school, I shaved it into some like really awful-looking sideburn chops, like a mustache. I was like the creepy old guy on campus there."
Fully healed the spring of 2012, Blackmon returned to the Rockies clean-shaven, hopping around the club's farm system the next two seasons and sprinkling extended stints with the big league club in late summer. It was during an excursion to Australia when the genesis of his current beard came to form, loosely in conjunction with the '13 World Series, as Boston's bearded bunch marched to a title. Admiring the Red Sox's rugged collective, though not necessarily with intent of mirroring their montage, Blackmon kept it, and arrived at Spring Training in '14 with an early draft of the beard seen today—grungy, yet reasonably groomed, not quite distinct.
With admitted struggles in four Cactus League stints to that point, Blackmon broke camp with the big league club for the first time despite a wealth of outfield depth—six total players, including Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Corey Dickerson. Cuddyer was among those who challenged the superstitious Blackmon to keep the beard, and he hasn't gone clean-shaven since, with only minor trimmings in between.
"I didn't expect it to go this far, that's for sure," Cuddyer said. "I didn't expect things to be living in it. I'm sure he probably keeps a couple days worth of lunch in there. At the time, when he came into Spring Training with it, it was not nearly as long, so it actually looked pretty good. It looked pretty clean. He used the beard lube and all that stuff. I told him he needed to keep it. Now he has to keep it, there's no doubt." (Kramer - mlb.com - 9/21/17)
Charlie was named National League Player of the Week for the first week of the 2014 season and went on to earn his first All-Star selection that summer. With the backing of Colorado's social media team, propelled behind a trending tag of #FearTheBeard, the phenomenon took off.
"All of a sudden, you've got branding on your face," said Myron Blackmon, Charlie's dad. "And hey, I don't think he would've shaved anyway, because I think that's him now, but it really made him kind of a known entity there in the city and the region."
In the three years since, Blackmon has blossomed into a fan favorite, going from a Rocky Mountain secret to a burgeoning star. At 31, he's budded at a later-than-usual career stage, his rugged façade and national presence growing in sync. The only person who can't get on board with the look is Grandma.
"God bless her, she's 92 now and she's old-school," Myron said of his mother-in-law. "She's just not getting it. She's like, 'Charlie, you're so good-looking under there, you need to shave that beard.' You can't explain branding to Grandma. She doesn't care. She's looking for that clean-shaven little boy she remembers."
The look, many close to the outfielder say, is reflective of his style of play. Anchoring the Majors' largest physical outfield at Coors Field, Blackmon, who has referred to himself as "the tired-est guy in baseball," empties the gas tank every day. "When you see how he goes about his routine and see how he works, you realize how good he is," said teammate Nolan Arenado. "He's naturally good, but he's put in a lot of work to be as good as he is."
If the look is reflective of Blackmon's play, it's equally so for his public presence. With the social-media moniker "Chuck Nazty," he shows audiences an unfiltered vantage, mostly to his life away from baseball. Among the throng of photo gems include Blackmon's fly fishing escapades, "Call of Duty" campaigns and getting stranded in his 2004 Jeep Cherokee, his first car, which he still drives.
"That's him. That's Charlie," said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who used to share an apartment with Blackmon in downtown Denver. "That's just who he is. It just works. Every day, it's out of hand."
"Charlie, he's a player that I think a lot of fans can relate [to] and love," Arenado said. "They appreciate him because he's outgoing, he's funny, he's got the beard. He looks pretty crazy out there, so I think he brings a lot to the table."
Blackmon's unique flair is equally appreciated in the clubhouse, where his simplistic style is widely cast as the most unique. Without flash in his wardrobe or wheels, Blackmon says he often isn't recognized away from the immediate ballpark vicinity, and even then, with only a rare run-in.
From here, the Bearded Wonder seeks continuity and his first career postseason (2017) berth. And though the beard was initially a milestone marker, don't expect Blackmon to break out the clippers any time soon. (Kramer - mlb.com - 9/26/17)
Jan. 2018: Three years into his college career, Blackmon was a lefthanded relief specialist. Now look at him. He's an All-Star center fielder, coming off a season in which he set a Major League record with 102 RBIs as a leadoff hitter.
And he got a late start on his career as a position player. It only happened because Blackmon had arm problems during his junior year at Georgia Tech but still wanted to play summer ball. So when he showed up in Arlington, Blackmon told his summer-league manager, former big league outfielder Rusty Greer, that he was a pitcher/outfielder. By the end of the summer, Blackmon was an outfielder—period.
Blackmon talked about the transition in this Q&A:
MLB.com: Explain the decision to become a position player.
Blackmon: I pitched two innings the whole year. My arm was bugging me. I was coming back from bone spurs and was super inconsistent. I wasn't very good. But I wanted to play baseball. I hit a little bit in junior college, but I had not played a position since high school. It wasn't like I thought I was going to be a great hitter. I just wanted to get on the field. I told Rusty I was a two-way player which, of course, wasn't true. Sean Devine, one of my teammates at George Tech, went out there with me and I told him to keep quiet.
MLB.com: Any fear of failure?
Blackmon: I felt the worst-case scenario was if I didn't get any hits I'd just pitch. It turns out I started hitting pretty well. Rusty sat me down and told me, "I really think you can be an outfielder. I know you like to pitch, but you can make it as an outfielder." I decided to do it.
MLB.com: Was it tough to get the chance to be a hitter when you got back to Georgia Tech?
Blackmon: I thought I was going to have a fight. I thought they were just going to laugh at me. Rusty Greer called coach (Danny) Hall and told him, "Give Charlie a shot." So I come back and it's, "All right, you think you are a hitter now. "I remember that first workout in the fall. The first guy I face in an intra-squad game is our Friday night pitcher, David Duncan. He's lefthanded. He is 6-foot-9, 230. He was a fifth-round draft choice of the Astros. I wasn't really excited he was going to be my first at-bat. He threw a fastball over the plate and I hit it as good as I can hit a baseball. It goes way out. In intra-squad games, you don't hit a home run and run the bases. I touch first base and head back to the dugout. Danny Hall is laughing, complete laughing. He doesn't know what to think. I am thinking I was meant to be an outfielder. Since that time, I was a hitter.
MLB.com: Things came together pretty quick. Did it surprise you to wind up a second-round draft choice?
Blackmon: Sure. When it's just one season, you have to get someone's attention early enough that they are going to pay enough attention to you that when it comes to the draft, they are willing to push hard for you. It was crazy high. I was thinking the 15th to 20th rounds would be good, and I kept moving up.
MLB.com: The biggest challenge of pro ball? Blackmon: The biggest thing was to learn how to learn. I had to make adjustments, to figure out how to do that as quickly as possible. That's the name of the game. Once you enter pro ball, it is a fresh start. Everyone is in a race to make as many adjustments as they can, and get as good as they can. You have to understand. This guys' throwing fastball's, how do I catch up? This guy has a really good left-handed slider. How do I swing over the top every time?
MLB.com: Any particularly person have a bigger impact on you than someone else?
Blackmon: I don't want to let people down. I feel very, very responsible. I am very Type A. It's up to me. I make things happen. I know that's not always the case. I have a God-given talent and a lot of people who have helped me. I don't want to leave anything to chance. I take it upon myself that I'm the driving factor. It's my job to get better. The motivation comes from within. I did love watching Manny Ramirez.
MLB.com: Manny? Certainly a different type of hitter, wouldn't you say?
Blackmon: Completely different (style). He was the guy I felt he was the best at doing what he wanted to do. He wasn't scared to go up and swing at a first pitch and miss it by a foot, because he was looking for a fastball and he didn't get a fastball. He was OK with that. It was like, "I'm only swinging at fastballs. If it's not a fastball, I'm going to miss it. I am not going up there looking for a fastball, then slow my bat down, and roll over. I'm playing the percentages. I'll give you strike one, but I'm not going to give you the out."
MLB.com: So it is more than physical ability?
Blackmon: Half of it is learning how to control your mind. You have to have the right mindset—dealing with failure, attitude and confidence. You have to be able to look really bad and come back and give yourself a good chance the next at-bat. You have to feel that next at-bat you can help win the game. You can't let things snowball.
MLB.com: What about improvements?
Blackmon: It is less about specific baseball skills. It is a lot more about my body and selection. I want to be a better hitter every year. I really think that the best way to do that is to swing at the right pitches. That's the hard part. Everybody is athletic enough to put the bat on the ball that's playing. It's recognizing pitches early, recognizing what they're going to be once they get to the plate.
MLB.com: You talk about being focused. In what way?
Blackmon: I don't think anybody can go up there and hit any pitch. You can't cover everything. You can't hit a fastball and a change-up with the same approach. Figuring out what I do well and how that matches up with what the pitcher does well is the most important thing for me now.(Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.)
It’s easy to understand how Blackmon could intimidate pitchers. Beyond the fact that he’s a career .305 hitter who won the 2017 batting title, he stands a solid 6-3 and 210 pounds at the plate, with long, stringy hair flowing out of his batting helmet and a thick, dark beard giving him the appearance of a lumberjack rather than a center fielder.
But he wants you to know, you don’t have to be afraid. “[The look] suits the way I like to play the game,” Blackmon said. “I’m kind of a big guy, have a lot of facial hair. I guess it could be taken as intimidating, if you didn’t know me. But I’m certainly not that way in my day-to-day, walking around.”
Whether his shaggy appearance has any effect on his opponents, one thing that is certain is that his overall persona, including the tenacity with which he plays the game on the field, has made him a fan favorite in Colorado and has shed light on a side of Blackmon known as “Chuck Nazty.”
Who is Chuck Nazty and where did he come from, exactly? It’s hard to say, but to hear Blackmon tell it, Chuck is nothing more than a fun-loving guy on social media.
“He’s just this crazy guy they let onto Twitter and Instagram. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s an alter-ego, it’s more of me just having fun,” Blackmon said. “I don’t want Chuck Nazty to be boring, so I try to put entertaining things on social media. Nobody cares what I ate. Nobody cares about a selfie. I’m not taking any selfies.”
A quick search through his Twitter account (@Chuck_Nazty) confirms this, as his feed is full of light-hearted and humorous tweets, pictures and, most recently, a side-by-side comparison video of his and fellow Denver-based athlete Vonn Miller’s dance moves Blackmon certainly has the job security and resources to indulge
Chuck Nazty, but it wasn’t always that way. Not long ago, the course-looking Dallas native was a clean-shaven rookie, trying to hit his way into a permanent spot on the big-league roster with the Rockies after quickly rising through the minors. His MLB success, and the quirky and carefree way by which it appears to come, could lead one to assume stardom was a foregone conclusion. But Blackmon maintains that was definitely not the case.
“Where my skills were, and where they needed to be to be a good Major League Baseball player, or at least a guy who could stay in the big leagues, were miles apart,” Blackmon said of the period when he was first called up to the Rockies. “So, I had to figure out how I was going to make that jump.”
That’s when Chuck Nazty takes a backseat and Charlie takes the wheel. While Chuck is the fun-loving goofball who never takes anything too seriously, Charlie is the hard-working, dedicated and self-described “realist” who puts in the work that has taken him to the pinnacle of the sport he loves. (Andrew Lawrence - Sporting News - April 25, 2018)
That Charlie even picked up a baseball bat in the first place is incredible. Blackmon began his career at Division II Young Harris College in northeast Georgia as a highly touted lefthanded pitcher. He was drafted out of high school in 2004 by the Marlins, and again in 2005 by the Red Sox. Instead of signing to play professionally, Blackmon honored his commitment and pitched two successful seasons for the Mountain Lions.
He then transferred to ACC power Georgia Tech, where he found himself on the bench during his first year in Atlanta. That summer, while pitching sparingly for former big leaguer Rusty Greer and the Colleyville LoneStars in the Texas Collegiate League, Blackmon came up with a rather crazy idea to get on the field: He was going to ask to hit. In a move that would change the course of Blackmon’s career, Greer decided to give him a shot. The decision paid off, as Blackmon impressed his summer coaches with his ability at the plate — to the point that Greer felt compelled to alert Georgia Tech to the possible power-hitting pitcher they had on their bench.
“Rusty called me in July and said he thought I should give Charlie a chance to hit when we came back for fall workouts. I said if [Greer] thought [Charlie] could hit, then I’d give him a chance in the fall,”
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “After a couple workouts, it was obvious he had a good swing.”
Blackmon performed well enough that fall to earn the starting spot in center field the following spring and turned in a phenomenal senior campaign, batting .396 with eight home runs, 45 RBIs and 25 stolen bases, earning him Second Team All-ACC honors. Though Blackmon had only played one full season as an outfielder, the Rockies saw enough to take him in the second round of the 2008 draft. And that, Blackmon said, was when the real work began.
“I showed up the first couple of weeks [in the minors] and wasn’t very good. I couldn’t figure out the whole wooden bat thing,” he joked.
Though he can laugh about it now, the experience of struggling right out of the gate in the pro ranks taught Blackmon a valuable lesson and helped him set up a mental blueprint for success. “At every level of baseball, there’s an adjustment period. You move up a level [in the minors] and you’re immediately the worst player in the league and you have to figure out how to tread water for a little bit while you learn how to make adjustments,” Blackmon said. “Then you have a little bit of success and then have to figure out how to make that success consistent. And if you can do that, then you’re considered a good player wherever you are.”
That he was able to reduce the process of ascending through the minor leagues into a simple step-by-step formula should come as no surprise to those who know him. After all, Blackmon is an intelligent and cerebral individual. In high school, he was awarded Academic Player of the Year three times, was on the Dean’s List at Georgia Tech, where he graduated with a degree in Business Management, and was named to ESPN’s Academic All American team in 2008. Blackmon even undertook an internship at a wealth management firm in Atlanta during the offseason when he was in the minors.
“I knew going into [professional baseball] that there was a 7 percent chance, even after getting drafted high, that I would make it to the big leagues and an even lower percent chance that I’d be able to make a career out of it,” he said. “I’m not an idiot. I knew I needed to be prepared for life when, and if, [baseball] didn’t work out. At the same time, though, I was still 100 percent committed to baseball.”
The Rockies are happy with both Charlie and Chuck. Chuck has the ability to keep the clubhouse loose with his antics and Charlie has the ability to keep the Rockies in the win column with his play. It’s the best of two very different worlds. (Andrew Lawrence - Sporting News - April 25, 2018)
Blackmon’s kindness and sincerity to those around him are things that both sides of the center fielder seem to have in common.
“He is a little unique personality-wise, but he’s also one of the most genuine, humble and caring people you will find,” Hall said.
That sentiment is not limited to coaches and teammates he played with for years. Even people who have known him in passing, or played with him briefly, speak highly of him.
“After he made it to the big leagues, when we’d see each other in spring training, he’d always go out of his way to say hi to me and ask how I was doing,” said former minor-leaguer pitcher Dan Houston, who was Blackmon’s teammate for a few weeks in Triple-A. “He didn’t have to do that. I think it just demonstrates the kind of guy he is.”
Chuck Nazty will continue to hang out and drive the fabled 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee that he received as a high school graduation present from his parents, occasionally running out of gas on the highway. Charlie Blackmon will continue to train and work hard to produce at a high level at the plate for the Rockies. The two sides complement each other perfectly, making the other that much stronger.
As long as that dynamic is in place, it spells trouble for dance floors and National League pitchers alike. (Andrew Lawrence - Sporting News - April 25, 2018)
Charlie has established himself as one of the rootinest, tootinest center fielders in all the land. With his free agency looming at the end of the 2018 season, Blackmon recently signed an extension with the Rockies that'll keep him in purple through at least 2021.
Considering that Blackmon was a pitcher back in college, the development his bat has made is downright incredible. His power output has essentially gotten better every single season he's been in the big leagues. But what's the secret behind his methodical improvement? The answer might surprise you: His beard.
There is a year-by-year correlation between Blackmon's beard and his home run output. The completely clean-shaven version of Blackmon is practically indistinguishable from the current gent, both in facial hair and power output. Baby-faced Chuck Nazty was less than nasty in his rookie year, hitting only one homerun in 102 trips to the dish.
In his second season, there was a smidge of stubble starting to come in for Blackmon. The slight scruff played a huge role in Blackmon's sophomore campaign as his homer total doubled! Yeah, yeah it went from one to two -- but still, that's double!
The 2013 version of the beard was more like a businessman who went away on vacation and decided not to shave for a while. But it was also the year that we really started to see a glimpse of Blackmon's on-field and on-face potential; he had 6 home runs. In 2014, in his first year as a full-timer, Blackmon finally committed to the beard, and as a result, he slapped 19 big flies and appeared in his first All-Star Game.
Blackmon's 2015 season was perhaps the exception that proved the rule. While his power numbers took a slight step backwards, his beard continued its ascent, displaying for the first time an undeniable level of fuzziness that has since become a trademark, (17 home runs).
Not only did Blackmon add an impressive, Jake Arrieta-type fullness to his beard in 2016, but he also rocked the mullet for the first time. His dinger numbers (29) took another step forward, because with great hair comes great power.
It should be no surprise that the best year of Blackmon's career  at the dish also happened to be his best year on the face. With the beard at peak scraggliness and thickness, the Rox center fielder cracked 37 homers, finished fifth in NL MVP voting and led the league in hits, runs, and triples.
The beard style is pretty solidified at this point [in 2018], but a closer look indicates it has continued growing downward, potentially adding a few centimeters in length. Who knows what the rest of Blackmon's career will look like, but as long that beard keeps growing, we think he'll maintain his power and remain one of baseball's most exciting and dynamic players. (Mintz - mlb.com - 4/26/18)
In 2018, Blackmon was selected to be a reserve in the MLB All-Star game.
Nov. 10, 2018: Blackmon and his fiancée Ashley Cook tied the knot in Highlands, North Carolina.
In 2019, Blackmon represented the Rockies at the All-Star Game.
2019 Season: The Rockies’ difficult season left Blackmon feeling strangely energized. He hit just .219 through his first 18 games, but was able to get back to .300 before a calf injury cost him 14 games as he struggled through a tough June. Despite those difficulties, Blackmon still managed to rebound and finish the season with a .314/.364/.576 slash line, hit 32 home runs and 86 RBIs—a bright spot in the Rockies’ disappointing 71-91 campaign.
Let’s look at the good and the bad of 2019, and even more ways Blackmon hopes to enhance his performance in 2020.
What went right
After having a 1.000 OPS in 2017, Blackmon rebounded from a slight production dip in 2018 where he finished with an .840 OPS. The 33-year-old right fielder raised his OPS to .960 in 2019 and he sounded ready to find ways to help the team rebound from its 71-91 record.
The Rockies’ primary center fielder since 2014, Blackmon went through an adjustment period in right field, in a home park where the defensive metrics haven’t been kind to him. Even with the calf injury and other pains along the way, Blackmon felt fresher at the end.
What went wrong
While pitching struggles were the key reason for the Rockies' downfall, all of the team’s offensive leaders struggled when the season was falling apart. Blackmon was not immune. After a monster month of June, which saw him carry a 1.275 OPS en route to NL Player of the Month honors, he struggled mightily in July and finished with a .256/.304/.360 slash line.
Blackmon set a Major League record with 15 hits in a four-game series against the Padres June 13-16, and three hits in six straight home games June 13-28.
During the ninth inning of a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Aug. 29, home plate umpire Jerry Meals called Blackmon out on a pitch that appeared to be out of the zone. Blackmon, who would put his sense of strike zone up against anyone, vehemently disagreed. He earned the ejection by spiking the bat, continued forcefully arguing and gesturing, and slammed his helmet as he exited.
Expect more change. Black has identified Blackmon as one of the regulars who will get more days off in hopes that younger depth has developed. Of course, the IL stint was part of it, but Blackmon also rested during the latter stages of the season and finished with 140 games played—his fewest since becoming a regular in 2014.
Still, Blackmon had the second-most homers of his career (32, behind 37 in 2017) and tied for third in the NL in extra-base hits with 81, after just 67 the previous year.
Black and the Rockies’ staff have “encouraged Charlie to be vocal with the guys, because I think he has so much to offer … he has a certain touch of what things to say to certain players, and what things not to say to certain players.”
Blackmon wants to embrace that push outside his comfort zone.
“The problem with baseball is, for me personally, I don’t trust anybody -- I want to do my own scouting, I have to be my own hitting coach,” he said. “I don’t want to leave my career up to someone else. I’m taking ownership of it. Most of the guys that are competitive enough to be at this level feel the same way. I try not to just start throwing out advice left and right.
“But when I look around and realize I do have more experience than some of the guys in this locker room, it’s my job.” (T harding - MLB.com - Nov 6, 2019)
Once upon a time, Charlie was coveted for his left arm much more than for any offensive potential he might have had. During his high school and even his junior college days, Blackmon was a pitching prospect, a projectable and athletic lefty who was drafted twice for his abilities on the mound. It wasn’t until his senior year at Georgia Tech that he began to show what he could do with the bat, leading to him becoming a surprise second-round pick in the 2008 draft by the Rockies.
MLB.com interviewed from scouts to coaches to Blackmon himself about his transformation from forgotten pitching prospect to one of Major League Baseball's best hitters.
In high school, there wasn’t a lot of showcase baseball. For me it was really my senior year of high school only playing baseball. I played some football and basketball. Being very unseen and left-handed, that was kind of my projectability. That was what I was hanging my hat on, being the left-handed, projectable arm because I had no speed or power at that time. I thought I was a good hitter, but I felt like pitching was going to be my way to play baseball in college.
Brian Bridges, Marlins area scout: Charlie was playing in the outfield, and the coach guaranteed me he would throw before the end of the game. It was our chance for us to see him. What was ironic about this whole story . . . we are watching him play the outfield, he’s bouncing around and Cadihia goes, “I kind of like his swing.” I was like, “Yeah, he is smoking the ball over the yard.” Then he came in to pitch. Mike C nailed it. If you are going to give credit to anybody, my regional crosschecker said, “Hey man, we could really draft-and-follow him as an outfielder.”
Blackmon: It’s tough to say that he got that wrong. I think it was more that I failed as a pitcher and the hitting thing was a Plan B. But there was a time I felt like I was going to be a pitcher. That is what I was working towards. It wasn’t until that door closed that I really tried to pursue hitting. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
While Blackmon was drafted by the Marlins, he was not pursued by many college programs. So he went where he was wanted, as a pitcher: Young Harris College, a two-year junior college in Georgia that had produced 2003 first-round pick Nick Markakis.
Blackmon: I grew up in Atlanta and there was East Cobb, which was some of the best amateur baseball in the country, and I didn’t really subscribe to that, so I didn’t come onto the scene or become anybody of note until probably halfway through my senior year as a lefty on the mound. Kind of tall. I wasn’t that impressive. I was probably mid 80s but athletic, and honestly, I was surprised when I got drafted. I really didn’t get any attention from Division I programs, so I signed the first collegiate offer that I got from Young Harris College. That was the first and only offer I received. I was just happy that somebody gave me a chance.
Blackmon went 7-1 in 14 appearances as a freshman, striking out 49 batters in 44 innings. He helped the Mountain Lions to a GJCAA State Championship in 2005, receiving tournament MVP honors.
Bridges: Subsequently in the fall, the velocity started to creep up a little bit. He was touching 91 and we started to get excited about how Charlie’s arm was working and the things he was doing. As the course of the next spring went on, he really didn’t materialize. It was just that his arm wasn’t bouncing back from start to start or inning to inning.
The Marlins didn't sign Blackmon. And in 2005, the Red Sox selected him in the 20th round. A combination of the start of some arm trouble, along with a struggling Young Harris offense, led to some at-bats for Blackmon in 2006. As a sophomore, he collected eight wins with 89 strikeouts and made the GJCAA All-Conference team.
Blackmon: Halfway through my sophomore year, we were struggling hitting and our coach brought some of the more athletic pitchers out just to shock-and-awe scare the offense. And they let some of these pitchers hit BP to let our offense know they are replaceable. I had a pretty impressive BP, so I got to DH a little bit my sophomore year. But I did not play a position; I was not really a hitter. I remember my coach telling me he wanted me to hit like a pitcher, don’t hit like a hitter. Just go up there and swing the bat. “Don’t think. You’re a pitcher. We’re going to put you in there to hit here and there. No approach. Just see it and hit it.”
Bridges: [Head coach] Rick Robinson did a real good job with those guys. He had Nick Markakis up there as well; he was a two-way guy. Charlie goes back to school and then Rick Robinson gives me a call. … I stayed in contact with him. We didn’t really follow, but I always liked Charlie. He calls me and goes, “Hey man, I think we are going to do both with him this year. I said, “Oh, kind of like you did with Markakis.” (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
Blackmon didn’t do enough on the mound or at the plate to get drafted after his sophomore year at Young Harris. But he had thrown well enough in the Cape Cod League (3.42 ERA in 26 innings) and over the course of his two seasons at Young Harris to catch the attention of a big Division I program.
Danny Hall, Georgia Tech’s head coach: I honestly had never even heard anything about him as a position player. So he comes in and he’s strictly going to be a pitcher, and quite honestly he had some elbow problems. So he came in with that and his velocity had gone from upper 80s to low 90s to now here’s a guy throwing 84-85 with not a lot of command, not a really good breaking ball. We were kind of scratching our heads a little bit, like "Where is this guy going to fit in as a pitcher for us?"
Blackmon: When I went to Georgia Tech my first year, that fall I had some lingering elbow issues from the end of my sophomore season at Young Harris. I could not get rid of some tendinitis. I actually went and saw Dr. [James] Andrews for consultation. I was able to rehab and avoid surgery, but I just felt like it took me too long to come back. My arm slot felt weird, I wasn’t throwing nearly as hard. I wasn’t throwing strikes. It was just a really tough year for me, and I was able to obtain a medical redshirt in my third year of college, that first year at Georgia Tech.
Blackmon appeared in one game with the Yellow Jackets that season, spending a lot of time on his own trying to work his way back.
Hall: The legend of it is, and he can speak to it more, is he would go up in our cages because we had an indoor mound up there and just throw balls into a net. He was constantly working, trying to get back to where he was and ultimately be able to contribute to our team.
Blackmon: I had a really tough time at Georgia Tech as a redshirt. I wasn’t traveling. I was home by myself half the time on campus in the cage throwing bullpens with a dummy plastic hitter standing in there. I was trying to figure it out as best I could, and I couldn’t turn the corner. That’s when I decided I just really missed baseball and I wanted to play. After that third year of college I was able to find my way into a collegiate summer baseball league. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
The Texas Collegiate League had been formed in 2004, and was in its infancy when Blackmon headed there, mostly to make up for lost innings in the summer of ‘07. But when he arrived, Blackmon talked his manager, former big leaguer Rusty Greer, into letting him hit.
Blackmon: I didn’t have any aspirations of playing at the next level. I was just missing baseball, having not played that year at Georgia Tech and I wanted to get on the field. So I told Rusty Greer I was a two-way player, which wasn’t true. I hadn’t been hitting, hadn’t been playing any defense since high school really. So I just grasped at anything, trying to get on the field in any way possible.
Greer: I did not know that [but] he was taking BP and I liked his stroke. Had I known he hadn’t swung a bat in two years I would have probably been more impressed with his stroke, because it was a good left-handed stroke with some juice and we’re using wood bats. He is hitting the ball right on the button, and of course we don’t know the whole history of every player. He wanted to get some at-bats, but his main goal was to come in and pitch. Because of what he did in his BP and the way he swung the bat, he was pretty much a regular in our lineup every day.
Blackmon: I came in as a pitcher, and it’s a wood bat league. I had never actually swung a wood bat really, so I was trying to get used to that. I was still really wanting to hold on to the pitching thing because I thought that was my potential. By that point, I was maybe 190 pounds rather than the 170-something I was when I graduated high school, so I was starting to get stronger. I didn’t have any leg strength in high school, and I’m starting to add some strength, I can move my frame a little better at this point. I am running a little faster, maybe a little stronger, I can swing the wood bat with enough bat speed to be competitive. That’s when Rusty really started to try to change my mind away from the pitcher mentality. He told me that he thought I was going to be a much better hitter or outfielder than I would ever be as a pitcher.
Greer thought Blackmon was a solid enough pitcher to be able to help Georgia Tech out in the bullpen. But he couldn’t get away from how much he liked the swing. Then he saw Blackmon running sprints in the outfield and was blown away by his speed, leading him to a question.
Greer: I say, “Charlie, you can run a little bit,” and he says, “Yeah, I’ve always been able to run.” I said, “Have you ever thought about playing the outfield? In particular center field?” It was the typical profile, if you’ve got speed, you can play center field. This is probably still typical of Charlie Blackmon to this day, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I just want to play.” So we put him in center field. I turned to the assistant coach and said, “This kid isn’t a pitcher; he’s an outfielder.”
That led to a conversation that changed the trajectory of Blackmon’s baseball career forever. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
Greer: He had a great summer, so I actually called coach Hall over at Georgia Tech and said, “I know Charlie is a pitcher.” And Coach Hall probably wouldn’t remember this conversation, but I told him, “I know he came as a pitcher, but he’s an outfielder. He’s playing center for us and doing really well.” I just said, “If you want to get the most out of him, I’d put him in the outfield.”
It wasn’t a conversation Coach Hall could easily forget.
Hall: I answer the call and it’s Rusty Greer and he’s like, “Danny I don’t know if you know who I am, but I am Rusty Greer.” And I said, “Well, if it’s the Rusty Greer who played for the Rangers, I know who you are.” He goes, “I don’t know if you’ve been following it, but we’ve been letting him hit a little and play in the outfield. I would never want to tell you what to do, you’ve been coaching a long time, but if I am you, I would definitely take a look at him in the fall as a position player and as an outfielder.” So I just said, “If you are telling me I need to take a look at it, we are going to take a look at it.” That was the seed planted in my mind by Rusty Greer that this guy may be able to help us as an outfielder and a hitter.”
Blackmon: I am glad it was Greer because I am pretty hard-headed. I like things my way, and had it been somebody else without as much experience I could have maybe just blown them off. But Rusty was adamant about it. I really had nothing to lose. I wasn’t really getting better at pitching at this point. I thought hey, this guy seems to know what he’s doing, he’s got a lot of experience, he’s certainly a great player—maybe he’s right. Maybe I can believe in this a little bit.
Blackmon got a look that fall as a hitter, and Coach Hall didn’t make it easy. After impressive BP sessions, Hall made him face their top pitcher in the first intrasquad game of the fall: 6-foot-9 lefty David Duncan.
Hall: First at-bat, home run.
Blackmon: I was super nervous. Just really nervous, hoping for the best. Picked the worst draw with our Friday night pitcher. I might have gotten a little bit lucky.
That led to more fall at-bats and the end of Blackmon’s pitching career. He swung the bat well enough that Hall suggested new Rockies area scout Alan Matthews meet with him that offseason as someone worth following the next spring.
Matthews: That’s really when my first knowledge of Charlie and who he was and what he was capable of really began, that conversation I had with Danny Hall that afternoon before the ‘08 season. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
Blackmon began his senior university season as an everyday outfielder and would go on to hit .396/.469/.564 as one of best hitters in the nation. Matthews was one of several area scouts who took notice, and that the new Rockies area scout never knew Blackmon as a pitcher was helpful.
Matthews: We have history with them, or we have some preconceived ideas about what they are and who they are and sometimes we tend to scout with one eye closed. I know I have been guilty of it since. In this case it probably worked to my benefit because I didn’t know him as a pitcher who was trying to hit. It was definitely a gradual progression. One of those guys who the more you saw him, the more you appreciated how good he was. Then you would have a conversation with one of his teammates or a former Georgia Tech player who was around the program, or an assistant coach and you would get all these anecdotes about his athleticism or his work ethic or things he had done with teammates.
Blackmon: I had played well and was having success at a very competitive level and then all of a sudden I have a pro day and I run a pretty fast time at pro day, and scouts are showing interest. So now it’s become a real possibility that I might get to play pro baseball. I was excited for it. At that point that was my fourth year in school so I was really close to my degree. I had no problem with moving ahead and going for it. I was playing with house money.
Matthews made sure Rockies cross-checker Danny Montgomery knew about Blackmon, and Montgomery relied on his longstanding relationship with Hall to check in on the outfielder without much of a track record.
Montgomery: I had no idea about him. He shocked me the day I was able to get in and see Coach Hall and that crew play. I got to him really, really late that spring. Coach Hall is a very close friend of mine, so after the game I was able to sit around and talk with him about him, to get a feel for what Charlie was all about. The next day after talking with him he mentioned he was going to have another game the following Monday, a makeup game. So I stayed.
Montgomery wasn’t alone for that rare Monday game. Rolando Pino, now the Red Sox co-director of international scouting, was a Florida area scout for the Cubs in 2008. He had snuck in to get a look at Blackmon during a swing to see the top players in Georgia.
Pino: I didn’t think anybody would be coming up on a Monday. Sure enough, D-Mont was there. It was a good day. I thought Charlie was an everyday player in the second round; that’s how I put him in.
Montgomery: I knew there was another scout at the game. He was sitting way up in the corner. Just doing pretty much what I was doing, trying to stay discreet, but he was there and he did not tell me that until [a couple of months ago] in the Dominican, that he is still upset at me every time he sees me -- that he should have gotten that kid.
Montgomery saw enough to make sure his bosses got the chance to evaluate Blackmon at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Montgomery: I had to get on it and try to get [scouting director] Billy Schmidt, and at the time Bill Geivett was with us. I told him, “When you go into that tournament there is just one guy I want you to pay attention to, and just keep it as quiet as you can because I’m going to push Billy to get this guy way higher than he probably wants to take him.”
Schmidt: I ran to the ACC tournament and saw Charlie for the first time, and I could see what Danny was so excited about.
Montgomery liked Blackmon even more than Matthews did, and Montgomery’s opinion as a veteran scout definitely carried more weight at the time. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
Dan O’Dowd, Rockies General Manager: Alan Matthews did a really good job on Charlie. We loved his intangibles. Danny Montgomery was really pushing hard for Charlie.
Matthews saw Blackmon as a third-round or fourth-round pick. It was Montgomery who pounded the table to take him earlier. As the second round unfolded, the Rockies had two college hitters on their board: Blackmon and South Carolina third baseman James Darnell. Darnell would go three picks earlier to the Padres, making the decision easier for the Rockies.
O’Dowd: We didn’t really think it was much of a reach because we felt the entire package, if he had a longer look, probably wouldn’t have been there at No. 72.
Blackmon: It was a huge surprise. The second round was way earlier that I thought I’d need to pay attention.
Matthews: As a first-year area scout I was thrilled to get him, but shocked we took him as early as we did, to be frank. I thought he would have been available in the third, fourth and maybe even fifth round. Obviously had they listened to my recommendation, this guy would have been in a uniform and making All-Star Games for another organization. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
As much as the Rockies liked Blackmon, no one thought he’d be as productive as he’s been in the Majors. There was always confidence he’d hit, starting with a .338 average during his pro debut in 2008 en route to hitting .308 in the Minor Leagues. There was a belief some power would come, but anyone who claims they predicted he’d hit 29 or more homers in four straight Major League seasons would be lying.
Greer: I have said this before and I will say it again. By no means do I take credit for Charlie Blackmon’s career or anything he’s done. That is all on Charlie. Charlie was, and still is, one of the hardest workers, and is an “I will do anything you want me to” guy.
Hall: I don’t think anybody could have predicted this guy could be an All-Star and be one of the better hitters in the game for many years. I don’t think anybody saw that. I certainly didn’t. Did I think he could play in the big leagues? Yes I did, but not at the level he’s been able to play at. In saying that, one of the things I don’t think a lot of people realize is he was an academic All-America; he’s really smart. He has become a student of hitting. He’s always been a hard worker.
Matthews: You knew he was going to hit and he was going to be every bit of the player he had the potential to become because of how bright he was and how hard he worked at it. But to say that he would have played in four All-Star Games and probably more and win a batting title? I don’t think I ever knew that until he started doing what he’s done in the Major Leagues.
Montgomery: Once we found out what this guy was all about IQ-wise, we had something. He’s been able to make adjustments, and you could have never told me from doing my report he would have had the power that he’s had. It’s unbelievable what he’s been able to do. It’s not an exact science.
Schmidt: No doubt it comes back to his work ethic, his drive. As much as you try to know what makes them tick and what drives them, I would say that the biggest thing with Charlie is his desire to be great.
Everything Blackmon went through, from converted pitcher to one of the best hitters in the big leagues, serves a constant reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.
Blackmon: It helps me keep things in perspective. Baseball is just so hard and there is so much failure. I had lots and lots of failure and without that, I don’t think I would have been able to make the jump from level to level. There were so many times when I thought I was done. This is the injury, or this bad performance. I just felt like baseball was going to get taken away from me and then I got another chance. It seemed like that every step of the way. My perspective has changed a little bit and now I look around the league a little bit and I like to find players who remind me how hard the game is. I like to see guys who struggle, make adjustments, and then become competitive and succeed.
You cannot translate an amateur talent directly into the big leagues. It’s not like the NFL or basketball where bigger, stronger, faster plays. Baseball is all about baseball skills and development of those skills and how you use your mind to let those skills show through. You just don’t know who is going to out-develop everybody else. (Mayo - mlb.com - 5/26/2020)
2020 Season: Blackmon missed much of Summer Camp after a COVID-19 diagnosis, then batted a freakish .500 for the first 17 games. The final 42 games were equally freakish for Blackmon, a former National League batting champ. He hit .216.
Charlie and Purple Pinstripes, and flowing streams and rugged mountain terrain, just seem to go together. “First of all, it's one of the best places on the planet to be,” said Blackmon. “Denver's just an unbelievable place itself with a great fanbase, and the opportunity to play in maybe the best park in baseball.”
“As his career continues the next few years, he’s going to enjoy who he is but also expanding his personality, his wisdom, his experience,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Before now, even teammates may have had a mistaken impression. Blackmon's mining advanced stats to incorporate into hitting and defensive positioning, and his spending postgame hours grunting through weight training or using tools for muscle maintenance set him apart. But that wasn’t the intended effect. “He's so focused and routine oriented, as everybody knows, sometimes the younger guy coming up doesn't feel like he wants to bug him,” infielder-outfielder Garrett Hampson said. “But Charlie’s an open book.” (Harding - mlb.om - 3/30/2021)
June 2008: Blackmon signed with the Rockies for a bonus of $563,000 after they chose him in the second round, out of Georgia Tech. Alan Matthews is the scout who signed Charlie.
January 2016: Blackmon signed with the Rockies for $3.5 million for one year.
Jan 13, 2017: Blackmon and the Rockies avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal at $7.3 million.
Jan 12, 2018: Blackmon and the Rockies avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal at $12 million.
April 4, 2018: Charlie signed a five-year, $94 million contract with the Rockies, an annual average salary of $18.8 million.