Blackmon has been drafted as a pitcher twice, by the Marlins out of high school in 2004 (28th round). And then by the Red Sox in 2005 after his freshman year at Young Harris Jr. College in Georgia (20th round). But after transferring to Georgia Tech he didn't see any time on the mound, and he redshirted in 2007.
In the summer of 2007, Charlie played in the Texas Collegiate League and hit .316 as an outfielder. So when he returned to Georgia Tech he got a chance as a position player and took full advantage. In 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 the spring of 2009, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 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 RBIs 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)
Charlie recorded his first MLB home run on July 1, 2011 (his 25th birthday) in a pinch-hit at-bat.
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 [being] a guy that 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 Colorado 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 halfcourt 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, 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 college 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 at least 15 home runs (he hit 17) 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.
Like Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who still drives a converted passenger van he received from his grandparents in college, 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 Blackmon, then the little boy who would every now and then have to drag his little bat to the bench and now a star center fielder 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, Ga., 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 Blackmon 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. He slept in hostels and experienced what he calls the “whole college, walkabout thing” at age 28.
“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 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby.
July 21, 2017: Charlie Blackmon 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 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)
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: Blackmom and the Rockies avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal at $7.3 million