His dream became reality June 15, when he signed with the Chicago Cubs.
Blackburn, the first-ever Heritage baseball player taken in the Major League Baseball Draft, turned down a full-ride scholarship to Arizona State to sign with the Cubs. He received a $912,000 signing bonus.
Blackburn was unavailable for comment as of press time.
“We are excited to bring a pitcher of this caliber into the organization,” Jason McLeod, Cubs vice president of Scouting and Player Development, wrote in an e-mail. “For a High school pitcher, Paul demonstrates the qualities we look for in his ability to throw strikes with multiple pitches while maintaining a smooth delivery with clean mechanics. As with all high school pitchers, the road will be long due to the amount of innings he’ll need to log prior to getting to the major leagues, but we are confident in his abilities and feel he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Blackburn is the highest Bay Valley Athletic League draftee since Liberty pitcher Chris Gruler was taken third overall by the Cincinnati Reds in 2002.
Heritage baseball coach Kevin Brannan, who coached Blackburn, was a coach at Liberty when Gruler was drafted out of high school. Gruler drew comparisons to Hall of Famer Tom Sever coming out of high school, but was cut in 2006 after three shoulder surgeries.
Brannan said Gruler’s experience gave him a new perspective about jumping to conclusions about high school pitchers. “It’s a matter of him (Blackburn) getting bigger and stronger,” Brannan said. “There are so many things that have to go right for him to succeed.”
Brannan said Blackburn is very poised on the mound, which will help him in the future.
Blackburn was named the Bay Valley Athletic League MVP for the second consecutive season in 2012 after finishing 10-3 with a 0.93 earned run average. He struck out 100 and walked 18 in his final season for the Patriots.
Nick Pasquale, a 2009 graduate of Antioch High School, was also taken in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Pasquale decided shortly after getting drafted in the 20th round by the Cleveland Indians to sign with the ball club instead of play for North Carolina State. He made his professional debut Tuesday with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Indians’ short-season class A team. He pitched two innings in relief, gave up one hit and struck out three.
Pasquale was reassigned to the AZL Indians, a rookie-level team in the Arizona League, on June 22. His first professional win came in a 13-2 victory over the AZL Brewers on June 23, when he pitched four innings, giving up only two hits and striking out two.
Pasquale amassed a 1.88 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 110 innings for Diablo Valley College this season after transferring from Saint Mary’s College.
“I’m a man on a mission and nobody is going to stop me,” Pasquale said via Twitter.