In my 19th installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer’ I sat down with the man, the myth, the legend, Bligh Madris. A left-handed hitting outfield prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.
The theme of Friday was small schools and to be more specific division two schools. For those of you that read Saturday’s article, you know, I talked to Western Oregon alum Alex Roth. If you haven’t read it, be sure to check it out. Today’s installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer’ features Colorado Mesa University product, and Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect, Bligh Madris.
Bligh and I got the chance to discuss several things on Friday. What we started out with who he is, and the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect gave a brief synopsis of who he is.
“I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. I played college baseball at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 9th round, and the journey has been incredible up to this point in my life.”
A question I started to ask everyone deals with their legacy, and when it’s all said and done what they want the people to remember their name by.
“I really enjoy all the communities, and I love that I can be apart of that. I try to engage with the communities that I’m in while I’m there. I want the fans to feel like I’ve touched their lives in a positive manner. Whether it be on the field or doing community service, I want to feel like I impacted their lives.”
Speaking of impacts on life, I wanted to know if any people in his life inspired him to play the game of baseball.
“I bounced around different sports growing up. My dad is a sports freak. My parents wanted me to try all kinds of sports and figure out what I loved. In high school, I still bounced around sports like tennis, basketball, football, and baseball. It wasn’t until my freshman year my baseball coach told me, Bligh, you know you can do some big things in baseball, right?”
Madris continued, “He saw my work ethic and potential. He said if you bare down and start working on baseball, you are going to be able to do some great things. He said you could get a scholarship and really help out your family. He opened my eyes a lot, and his name was Matt Iglitz. He was a second dad to me and would answer any questions and just supported me. He wouldn’t shy from telling me what’s what, and he’s just impacted my life so much.”
We continued to talk about coaches in his life that have been role models for him. “Another one was my college coach, Skip Hanks. We got along really well. The way he stayed on me and pushed me carved out my work ethic and made me become the player I am. He set a great foundation for hitting for me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Sticking with the college theme at Colorado Mesa, I wanted to know the main things he took away from his time there and what stuck with him.
“I started playing my freshman year and coming in as a freshman they had just lost in the championship. My mentality coming in was these guys are legit. I felt like I had some big shoes to fill and what am I going to do. My experience showed me how the older guys should treat the younger guys. It was those guys who helped me learn and how to become a great teammate.”
He would continue to talk about how the seniors on that team instilled some phenomenal advice. “They told me to do one thing each day to help someone else. Not for you, but for someone else, if you do that, you will have an amazing life. One senior’s name was Austin Wallingford. He had a different edge to him, and I wanted that. He gave me the mentality to push myself to be better than him, and he told me to do that.”
When you hear the phrase “draft day,” a flood of emotions come running in like the rough waters at an open sea. Madris had mentioned before how he was drafted in the 9th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I wanted to know how that made him feel.
“Draft day was a very emotional day for me. It was just an unbelievable day, to say the least. I woke up that morning, and my goal was to go top ten rounds. I got a text from a Pittsburgh Pirates rep saying we want you. For those that don’t know, they say it’s usually the first guy that messages you is where you’re going. I’m sitting around staring at my phone all-day. First few rounds go by, and we all were like ok, nothing yet that’s fine. Sixth and seventh rounds start coming in, and I start getting messages from a bunch of teams, and then my heart starts beating.”
Madris continued, “I had a team say hey you’re our pick right here, and I was excited. I watch the T.V., and the pick comes up, and it’s not my name. I was traumatized, and in shock, I called my agent and was like WHAT JUST HAPPENED! Then the eight round comes around, and the same team calls me again saying hey man we’re sorry there was another guy we had to take, but we want you now. They don’t take me AGAIN!”
This story was so in-depth and insane, and there is even more to this story here.
“At this point, I’m not even caring about the numbers, I just wanted an opportunity. Being a division two guy and going in the top ten rounds is pretty good. 9th around comes around, and I hear my name called, and it’s just craziness inside the house. Having my mom, girlfriend, and my dad crying was crazy. Pure joy and breathtaking. The group of guys I was drafted with couldn’t have been a better group, and they are awesome.”
How can you top that story? The raw emotion that he was feeling and then the pure elation is a testament to what a ballplayer goes through in their life. This right here is why I do what I do and why minor league player’s stories are the best to listen to (Sorry I’ll get back to the business at hand.)
He mentioned to me how right after the celebration it was all business from there on out. Naturally, I wanted to know what he pulled away from his first year in pro ball.
“Espo (Brian Esposito), the manager for West Virginia at the time, didn’t know we were coming in that day. He had eight guys show up, and they were about to go on a six game road trip. We didn’t have lockers or anything, so they said hey just throw all your stuff in the electrical closet. We’re in the electrical closet, and I was like WOW this is pro baseball right here. We met everyone and watched the game from the stands that day. Being on the road trip and knowing you’re about play in the next couple days, you’re like it’s SHOWTIME!”
Madris continued, “I get in the box for my first at bat, and the guy is pumping 98 on the gun, and I thought yeah we’re not in division two anymore. It was quite the adjustment, but I felt like I handled it pretty well. It was a great time; the transition was great with the players and coaches we had.”
The next question I had for Madris was to get a gauge on what kind of player he was and what he tended to focus on more, whether it was his bat or defense.
“I always want to master my craft in all areas. I do put a big emphasis on my hitting because if you hit, you play obviously, you want to be a good defender too. I’ve been working on different hitting techniques and philosophies to see what works for me. You hear all the new school old school teachings, and I’m a mix, to be honest. I love what the new school and diving into numbers like exit velocity. With old school, I’m really engaged with finish through and things like that and swinging down. I’ve been focusing on that because I feel like that can get me to the big leagues.”
Madris switched over to defense for a minute a talked about how he loved playing in the outfield, and with the group they had last year with Chris Sharpe and Jared Oliva, it made it fun. The group of Pittsburgh Pirates prospects also had speed, which is something Madris hasn’t always had, “I had to work at it and become a different type of player. Being around those guys, they pushed me to be great out there too. Bobby Scales works us out there as well; he makes sure we’re on top of it.”
Turning over to the fans and to be more specific Altoona fans, they seemed to fall in love with Madris during his time there. I wanted to know what kind of fans were Altoona fans.
“They’re great. They get the life that we live. Some fans get lost thinking we just show up and play, and that’s it. We could be having dinner, and they would come up to you and say good game out there, and they never push the issue. It’s people like that that make you want to take the time and get to know them and really respect. Altoona is some of the best fans I’ve been around. Derek Martin, the GM, does everything for us. Whether it’s having a chat or going to dinner and it’s unbelievable community.”
We all know some guys are struggling to find places to workout from, so I was interested to see what he had to say.
“My girlfriend’s dad has a home gym, but all the stuff seems like it’s from the 90s with cracks and rust, but we’re making it work with what we got so far. You see on social media with all the great fitness promotions out there, and they have been doing a great job with posting different workouts you can try at home, and they will kick your butt. My body feels better and looser with the new bodyweight stuff I’ve been doing.”
Now to the most important question of the day and yes you guessed it it’s about food. I wanted to know what his favorite food on the road is. “I definitely love breakfast.” Unbeknownst to me, we shared a brotherhood with brinner. For those that don’t know what brinner is, it’s breakfast for dinner. He loves country fried steak and bacon. I’m simple and love me some waffles and eggs.
The man known as Bligh Guy, will forever be one of my favorite storytellers, and they can never take away our brotherhood in breakfast. I hope we get a season in to watch him, and the rest of my past interviewees play the game they love.