Blake Hunt is a catcher from Costa Mesa, CA drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2017. Last season (2019), he played for the Class-A Fort Wayne TinCaps in Fort Wayne, IN. He’s currently the No. 2 catching prospect in the Padres farm system and ranked No. 21 overall on the Padres Top 30 Prospect List.
Q: What’s your favorite baseball movie?
“I would have to say my entire life it’s been Major League, but it’s weird because I’ve never seen Bull Durham until 2 weeks ago in Spring Training in my apartment with all of my teammates. They made me watch it and it might be my favorite now. But Major League or Bull Durham, they’re kinda similar. I think I’d have to watch both of them side by side to make a true decision.”
Q: Who was your favorite team growing up?
“I’d probably say the Angels just cause I grew up about 10-15 minutes from the stadium and I went to a ton of games growing up.”
Q: Who is your current favorite player and your all-time favorite player?
“So, my current favorite player is Buster Posey. He has been [my favorite] since he came into the league. But, growing up I loved David Eckstein. He was like the small little grinder that played for the Angels and yeah, I always loved him.”
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration?
“My parents have been my inspiration because they’ve worked so hard to provide for me my entire life and make sure that I’ve been able to achieve my goals. They’ve sacrificed so much for me because they knew that I had a dream. It would be the ultimate pay off for me to make it one day so that it was all worth it.”
Q: How did you get into baseball?
“My mom. Her dad growing up took her to Dodger games, so she was always the baseball fan. My dad was not because he didn’t know any sports at all before me. As early as I can remember, my mom would take me to baseball games and just sit me on her lap and explain what was going on. I was always athletic, so I played all sports, but I had a deeper love and passion for baseball and that’s where it stems back to.”
Q: What advice do you have for younger players?
“Play as many sports as possible. I think that’s important because you learn different values from everyone.”
Q: If you didn’t get drafted out of high school, what would you have studied in college?
“I got accepted into college undecided at Pepperdine, but I probably would’ve studied either Political Science or what I’m doing now, which is Business Admin. That’s what I’m taking my online courses in and working towards, but Political Science has always been something that I’ve been passionate about and my mom always thought that I’d be pretty good at it.”
Q: What’s your walk-up song?
“[Last season,] I had Let Me Blow Your Mind by Eve and Gwen Stefani because I think it’s always funny and ironic to have a random girly walk-up song, so I go with that a lot of times. I love Gwen Stefani, so that was a good one. A lot of the opposing teams would dig it. It was probably 2017 or 2018, I was watching a playoff game and Mike Moustakas walked up to the plate with it and I heard it over the sound system and was like ‘that, that’s what I want.’ It’s a good one. I try to stick to normally ironic walk-up songs and stuff like that or like old school rap. I like to switch it up, so I’ll probably go with old school rap this year.”
Q: Last season, you were playing for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, what has been a highlight of your time in Fort Wayne?
“This is going to sound really cheesy, but honestly the people! The staff there and all the people I met, like the host families. I think they kinda have a unique staff and unique team there because the Fort Wayne TinCaps kinda dominate all that Fort Wayne is because it’s a smaller town. It’s small town vibe and everyone knows each other and looks forward to TinCap season. All the staff and the announcers, John Nolan and Evan Stockton, those two were awesome. Mike Nutter and his staff with the front office were awesome. Obviously the stadium is unreal. If you ever want to visit an affiliate, I know Fort Wayne would be awesome. They take everyone and treat them like family. The whole facility is unreal.”
Q: Who is your favorite pitcher to catch for and why?
“Joey Cantillo, Ryan Weathers, Gabe Mosser and I were roommates so with those 3 pitchers in particular, I had a special connection. Joey and I have had the same agent our entire lives and I’ve known him for a while, so probably Joey if I had to narrow it down to one person. But all 3 of them I have meshed really well with. Obviously Gabe and Ryan are mature and easy to catch because they’re good pitchers. Omar Cruz is another one on the staff. He’s a really good pitcher, he’s got good stuff and he’s really young.”
Q: What challenges have you faced with being taller than average for your position?
“I think a lot of times when there’s reports written about me by all these scouts in high school and even now, everyone kinda views it as a downside. It’s obviously a plus thing offensively because I have leverage and I have long arms and I can grow into my body, but defensively they always make it seem like it’s a bad thing. I use my length to my advantage behind the plate and I’m a good defensive catcher. It just sucks sometimes because they don’t appreciate it. Catching isn’t sexy, defense isn’t sexy unless you play up the middle like a shortstop. No one really appreciates it. It’s easy to see whenever there’s a poor defensive catcher behind the plate, how quickly everyone on the field notices it and how it affects the game.”
Q: Catcher is your main position, but last season you got to see some time at first base. How did that come about?
“Ultimately, catchers are viewed as the least athletic bunch, so if they have to stick us somewhere, normally they’ll stick us at first. I’m a big guy, and I’m obviously a guy they want to get extra at-bats, so instead of not having me in the lineup, they’ll put me at first. I played one, maybe two games at first in high school. It’s not a terribly difficult position to learn. Most of the time, if there’s a ground ball my way, I usually block it anyway because it’s not that hard. That’s kinda why they put me there, just to get me some more playing time when I wasn’t catching. Obviously catching wears on the body, so you need an off-day but you still want some at-bats, so they’ll put me as a DH or at first. I played 8 or 9 games there, so it’s just occasional.”
Q: Last season, you batted .271 when you were ahead on the count, and only .171 when you were behind on the count. What adjustments are you making this season to improve those averages?
“I need to be aggressive and jump on heaters early in counts and not miss ’em because obviously I’ve had success earlier in counts. I’m definitely trying to minimize my strikeout rate. As the years have gone on, I’ve definitely got less and less each season, and I’m trying to increase my walk rate. I think they’re both going in the right direction.”
Q: What has been your main focus this off-season?
“I think everyone’s goal is to just get stronger and more athletic. Flexibility was a key of mine. Honestly, we all just want to put our bodies in the best place, so that we can stay healthy and be our best selves. Strength and flexibility are two parts of that for sure. Arm strength was another thing for me because I already had a strong arm, but I don’t want to settle. I want to continue to get stronger, so I did a lot of stability stuff with my shoulder and I’m definitely in a better place, but flexibility is always going to be an issue for me being a bigger guy, so I always need to continue to work on that. I also did hot yoga this offseason and some mobility exercises once we got into Spring Training. There was some more stuff from the training staff at the facility that was directed a bit more at my knees, so I was doing those everyday too.”
Q: What were some of your goals going into Spring Training before it was cancelled?
“I think the number one goal is to make it through Spring Training. A lot of times, guys come in gung-ho and sometimes guys don’t make a team. Make it through Spring Training strong and healthy is the number one goal. I was definitely working on some swing stuff in the offseason that I took into Spring Training and I think a lot of people took notice and they were pretty happy with the direction I was going. I think I have a good approach. I have good mechanics, we’re just trying to make some small tweaks, so I felt pretty good with where I was at.”
Q: Now that the season is postponed, what have you been doing in your free time?
“I’m still working out. Since California is on lockdown, my gym is closed, the place I hit is closed, so I’m just trying to make the most out of what I got. Besides baseball, I just downloaded MLB The Show, so I’m going to start playing that. I’ve been watching a lot of shows and just trying to stay inside. I just finished Hunters on Amazon. It’s super good! Just trying to stay busy, like hanging out with my parents, playing board games. There’s not much else I can do.”