Blake happy to find a home
Outfielder rewarding team's faith with hot start in right field
There's an old country song, "I've Been Everywhere," that you've probably heard hundreds of times; the Johnny Cash version has become ubiquitous in car rental and hotel commercials.Originally written by an Australian, with Australian place names, it was eventually adapted to the United States. In it, the singer, an imagined hitchhiker, lists off all the places he has been; 68 exotic American locales in all, everywhere from Amarillo to Wichita. The song was a No. 1 hit in the United States in 1962, 11 years before Casey Blake was born. So it only seems that the song was written about Blake, the Indians' well-traveled right fielder. Since being drafted by the Blue Jays, and before coming to the Indians, Blake has seen action in (deep breath) Hagerstown, Dunedin, Dunedin again, Knoxville, St. Catherine's, Syracuse, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Syracuse once more, Minnesota, Edmonton, Minnesota again, Baltimore, Edmonton again, and Minnesota for the third and final time. On September 21, 2001, the Orioles claimed Blake off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Barely more than a month later, Blake was claimed off waivers by the ... Minnesota Twins. Ah, the life of a Minor Leaguer. In 1999, Blake got 39 at-bats with the Blue Jays. In 2000, he got 17 with the Twins. In 2001, he had a combined 37 at-bats with the Twins and Orioles. And in 2002, he got 20 at-bats for the Twins. But on December 18, 2002, the Indians signed Blake to a Minor League contract. It hardly made waves around the league, but the Tribe was in a position to give Blake the one thing he lacked: a chance. That season, the Indians finished 74-88. Their everyday third baseman, Travis Fryman, had hit .217 with only 11 home runs in 118 games. Bill Selby played 33 games at the hot corner in 2002, and hit .214. So the Indians could afford to take a chance on a player labeled a "AAAA slugger." "As a Minor Leaguer, you always have to believe that you can succeed in this level when given a chance," Blake says. "It just took me a while to believe that I could play here. But once I believed it, I guess the sky's the limit." Blake didn't reach the heavens in his first year with the Indians; he hit .257 with 17 HRs, but with an unimpressive .312 on-base percentage. But the Tribe didn't really need an Olympian at that point. And if Blake didn't exactly set the world aflame, he did prove that he was capable of being a solid power hitter in the big leagues. He proved himself capable of so much more in 2004, when he rewarded the Indians' continued faith with a .271 batting average and 28 home runs. His .354 on-base percentage was a dramatic improvement from the previous year. But then things went awry. The Indians signed Aaron Boone to play third base for 2005. The Indians hadn't gotten much from right fielder Jody Gerut in 2004, and they saw a chance to improve their production at the position by moving Blake to right field.
: : : This Edition: June 14, 2006 : : :
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.