The talent to play baseball can be like other genetic traits—passed down through generations. Names like Bonds and Griffey strike resounding chords for baseball fans. There are many other familial connections in the game, including the grandson of former Detroit Tigers great Bill Freehan, Blaise Salter, who is making his way through the Tigers system as an up and coming prospect.
Freehan forged a 15-year career as a catcher for the Tigers between 1961-1976. Built like a linebacker, he mashed 200 home runs and looks to have passed his proclivity for power hitting on to Salter, who at 6’5” and 245 pounds is carrying on the family tradition for size.
After a successful career at Michigan State University, Salter was taken in the 31st round of the 2015 draft by the Tigers (They previously drafted him in 2011 but he elected to attend college). A first baseman, the right-hander hit .293 in the low minors that year, showing they got good value despite taking him so late.
In 2016, Salter appeared in 60 short season games, hitting.263 with 42 RBIs. He followed that up by hitting a combined .304 with 39 doubles, 8 home runs, 75 RBIs in 121 games between Single-A and high Single-A this past year.
Given his size, it is a fair assumption that Salter still has some game power waiting to materialize. He will turn 25 in June, 2018 and is older than some prospects. However, his selection in the later rounds suggests his being a project, who has showed extremely encouraging results in his first few professional seasons. With the Tigers in the midst of a major rebuilding project, there could be plenty of opportunity for him to seize.
The year before he was drafted, I had the opportunity to chat with Salter prior to a college summer league game he was playing in. Keep reading for more from this Tigers prospect.
Blaise Salter Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: I was introduced to the game by my dad and my grandfather. Those are the two most influential people in my life through baseball. I just fell in love with it when I was growing up. That was how I was a baseball fan.
How much influence did your grandfather, former Detroit Tiger great Bill Freehan, have in the way you grew up learning the game?: Other than my dad, he is the biggest influence in my life in everything, life and baseball. He taught me the ins and outs of everything and how to do it the right way, and what to do and what not to do. He just taught me the basics. He’s been a great person in my life and I can’t thank him enough for all that he has done for me.
You were drafted by the Tigers in 2011 but decided to attend college instead. What went into that decision for you?: At the time, I just didn’t think I was mature enough to go off on my own and play professionally. Actually, I decided to go to college and grow up a little bit and evolve a little bit more, and show people that I improved in college.
What parts of your game do you think you have improved upon the most since starting college?: I think just the mental side of the game, learning not to get down on yourself, playing until the next pitch. Just slowing the game down almost. See my pitches and not chasing pitches. Trying to become the best player and best teammate possible, and playing hard every time.
What are your hopes for the remainder of your school career?: I really want to be a Big-10 champion, and with the guys we’ve got up there I think it is an attainable goal. I want to leave Michigan State better than I found it and try to bring that school to Omaha. Hopefully with this year being my senior year, have a great year and see what happens. We’ve got a lot of good guys and a lot of really good incoming freshmen, so hopefully we can have a really good season.
Do you believe you are primed to enter pro ball once you are done with school?: Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to the next chapter after that. I’m focused right now hopefully winning the championship with Newport and seeing how far we can go there, and then get back up to East Lansing and work with the new team and hopefully leading that team. Next June, we’ll see what happens.
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