Gallagher embracing leadership opportunity

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* Journeyed shortstop Blake Gallagher is back for his second Tournament 12, and the 17-year-old is taking on a leadership role this year with Team Atlantic, who are looking to defend their T12 title. …. 

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By Mitchell Machtinger

Blake Gallagher is well travelled in the baseball world.

He’s played in New Brunswick, Oklahoma and Alberta, and this week Gallagher is competing with Team Atlantic at Tournament 12, the national tournament that has brought some of the best youth players in the country to Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Although just 17 years old, Gallagher is a relative veteran at the event and one of the few players returning to the defending Tournament 12 champions.

“I’m definitely trying to teach the other guys not to be nervous and how to do things around here,” said the shortstop.

Steve Donahue, a coach of the Atlantic team, sees the value in having an experienced player like Gallagher on his squad.

“He seems like he’s getting to know all the boys, and the boys are going to him if they have any questions, so he’s definitely taken on that leadership role,” said Donahue. “I see Blake being one of the main guys on the team. He’s obviously got the experience. He’s played out West as well. He’s going to be great up the middle, and he may see some time on the mound, so it’s definitely his opportunity to showcase his skills.”

Gallagher agrees with Donahue that this is a great chance to be noticed by scouts. He points to former teammate Andrew Case, who pitched a no-hitter for Team Atlantic in the semifinal last year and was then signed by the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Last year was great, seeing that Andrew Case got signed, it really shows that anyone can make it no matter where you’re from or the team you play for,” Gallagher said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to be seen by some schools and maybe go down to the south and play baseball more year round than we do in Canada.”

Playing south of the border is something Gallagher is familiar with. He was posted in Lawton, Oklahoma from 2008 to 2012 because his father is in the military. He continued to see success on the field, both competitively for the Oklahoma Sting and by making the varsity team as a freshman at Lawton High School.

“I learned a lot down there and was able to play more ball year round than I would in Canada so I feel that’s a big asset to where I am today,” said Gallagher.

In 2013, the Waasis, N.B., native returned home to play for the triple-A Fredericton Royals bantam team coached by Canadian and ex-Major Leaguer Matt Stairs. He credits an improvement in his hitting to Stairs, who told him to put a backspin on the ball to drive it further.

“It’s great to be able to have him (as a coach) because you can learn a lot about the game and how to mentally prepare each and every day,” said Gallagher, who was named the 2013 New Brunswick Minor Baseball Player of the Year. “He was there and had the experience.”

Gallagher’s list of accolades is extensive. Along with playing at the Canada Cup and Canada Games, he has also competed at the 2013 Canadian Midget Nationals and the 2012 Bantam Nationals. He has won the provincial bantam championships with the Royals and the USSSA World Series 12U with the Sting in 2009.

Standing at five foot nine, Gallagher tries to model his game after his favourite player on his favourite team, second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. Pedroia is officially listed at five foot eight.

“He’s also not the biggest guy,” Gallagher said of Pedroia. “It’s pretty inspiring how he made it and he’s one of the smallest guys. He made it through when people said he wouldn’t and he was able to persevere and make it where he is today.”

Eligible for the 2015 draft, Gallagher says he usually averages a 90 per cent grade as a student athlete. He currently plays his club ball for Vauxhall Academy in Alberta.

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