Blake Drake always knew baseball was for him.
“My friends played it, my parents loved it, and it was my escape from school,” he said. “It was always something that I did when I was young. Then I figured out I was actually pretty good at it, so I’m trying to pursue a career.”
What Drake didn’t know, however, was how big of a role he would play at a college so small most wouldn’t even know where to point it out on a map of the state of Oregon – a state that has become famous for their baseball teams in recent years.
In Eugene, the Ducks have capitalized off their 2009 re-launch of the program by hosting back-to-back NCAA Regional Tournaments. The program has a state of the art baseball facility, a National Championship coach at the helm, and the financial donors to help back the programs endeavors.
Oregon State is famous for their baseball prowess as well. The Beavers have reached the College World Series five times, winning the championship in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007. They have been to 14 NCAA Regional Appearances and five Super Regional Appearances.
If you continue to travel north you reach Portland, the largest city in the state.
Tucked away on the outskirts of the city is a small Christian school in the NAIA Division of the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
It obviously does not receive as much attention as the Division I powers with the state, yet it is home to one of the state’s biggest prospects, Blake Drake.
Attending Ramona High School near San Diego, CA, Drake wasn’t highly sought after.
“There were a few other schools that were interested,” he said. “I visited Concordia with a friend, and had no idea they were even interested in me.”
He was drawn to the small Christian community, where he felt he would not be just another face in the crowd.
“I enjoy that it’s a small school,” he said. “If I ever feel that I’m struggling with my education I can talk to my teachers one-on-one. I think that was a big help in the process of adjusting.”
In his freshman season at Concordia drake hit .271 with a .353 on-base percentage. He tallied seven doubles, one triple, one home run, and 16 runs batted in. He also walked 16 times compared to just 10 strikeouts in 118 at bats.
In the field, Drake led the outfielders with 104 putouts and a .982 fielding percentage. He only committed two errors in 107 chances, playing both center and right field.
Although Drake performed well in his freshman campaign, he admitted there was an adjustment period.
“I had to accept failure,” he said. “In college you’re going to get better pitchers and pitches. I did well in high school and I expected to do that here, but I wasn’t going to get the same results by doing the same thing I did in high school. I had to grow mentally and physically.”
Blake began catching scouts eye’s during his sophomore season.
He started all 55 games in center field, where he received a NAIA West Group Gold Glove. He had 147 putouts, six assists, and only committed three errors.
Offensively Drake took a leap forward as well, hitting .367 with a .425 on-base percentage. He led the team with 84 hits, 37 runs scored, 13 doubles, and 20 stolen bases.
He was named to the 2013 All-NAIA West team.
During that summer, Drake played for the Corvallis Knights of the West Coast League. He was ranked as the top third base prospect in the league according to Baseball America.
It would seem that the jump from NAIA competition to a league made of Division I players would be a challenge for Drake, yet he adjusted and performed remarkably well.
He hit .291 with a .414 on-base percentage, while finishing tied for second with 14 doubles.
“I didn’t worry about who was better than me,” Drake said. “I stuck to my position and we all played our own role. I got to experience a little bit of what the minor leagues and the major leagues are going to be like with the baseball grind of playing every day.”
As Drake enters his junior year at Concordia, he remains focused on winning a championship for his school.
When asked if he ever contemplated transferring to the Division I giants within the state of Oregon, Drake responded,
“You know I have just been sticking with what I am doing here,” he said. “I am committed to my team, and I am really going to work on the relationships I have with them.”
It’s difficult to guess where Drake might end up being drafted.
From a scouting perspective, he profiles as a player who will stay in center. He has a plus arm and has good speed.
His body is considered projectable moving forward. Meaning that at 6”1 and 165 pounds, Drake’s frame has the ability to support more muscle as he continues to add weight.
At the plate, Drake utilizes an upward stance. He has a line-drive swing that is built more for the gaps than beyond the fences.
When asked what Drake considers his own strengths and weaknesses, he responded,
“I’d like to say that I’m pretty quick, and I have a good arm,” he said. “But I’m always looking to get better. I wouldn’t say I’m striving to be a power hitter, but a little more power in the bat is nice.”
Yet for Drake, the thought of being the first Concordia draft pick in 10 years is an idea he does not want to focus on.
“It was a little overwhelming at first,” he said. “I’ve adjusted to it. You need to focus on your team before you focus on yourself. I’m just going to play it day by day and focus on what needs to be done.”
Looking for the rare gems in baseball can sometimes require digging a little deeper than just the Division I level.
With another standout season, Blake Drake could be drafted in the top rounds. Defensive minded center fielders with good speed and projectable offensive outputs are just the kind of players worth gambling on.