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Out in a Blase of glory

BY SETH ROBERTS | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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A phalanx of reporters brandished recorders and video cameras inches away from Tyson Blaser’s face, but he didn’t blink an eye.

After all, he’d been in the situation several times before.

A redshirt senior, Blaser has participated in five media days, and he joked about coming back for a sixth next year. That experience and sense of humor has helped mold the catcher into the leader of a team facing high expectations for the first time in years, and his pitchers appreciate his presence.

“It’s a real confidence-booster to have someone back there who not only commands you as a pitcher but the field,” senior pitcher Zach Kenyon said. “He’s our field general.”

The military analogy is especially apt considering Blaser spent most of the first part of his Iowa career battling injuries. After playing through a slew of maladies in his sophomore year, his health again posed a problem in 2009, when he tore a ligament in his thumb. He redshirted the year and made it through the 2010 campaign relatively unscathed.

While Blaser probably didn’t expect he would face the press at a fifth media day when he originally signed with the Hawkeyes, he said he was just grateful for the opportunity.

“I’m really glad to be back, to tell you the truth,” the burly catcher said. “Being hurt a couple times, you realize how you miss [baseball], and being able to play and being healthy have been a blessing.”

The extra year of eligibility has also allowed Blaser to return in a season in which the team is receiving more hype than in a long time. The Hawkeyes are widely picked to finish second in the conference after a successful run to the finals of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, despite spending most of the season in the league cellar.

The team gelled during its late-season romp — the Hawkeyes won seven of their last nine games, including five over Purdue — and much of the roster returns intact this year, including promising sophomore pitcher Matt Dermody. The Sunday starter credited Blaser with giving him the confidence to ride through difficult situations.

“When things were going down, he came up [to the mound] and always give me a little pep talk to keep me going,” Dermody said. “He’d say some pretty mean things to me, but they’d get me going.”

Blaser laughed when asked about what sort of mean things he was saying, and he said tough love is a vital part of a catcher’s relationship with his battery mates.

“I’ve always been a little bit of a clown off the field, but when you get between those white lines, it’s time to play ball,” he said. “I’ve got a good relationship with the pitchers, enough to where I can get on the guys and let them know [when they make mistakes].”

Blaser’s ability to both joke and coach has caught the attention of head coach Jack Dahm. The skipper said he has appreciated being able to rely on his catcher to help guide the pitching staff to prominence.

“It’s hard nowadays to find kids to be leaders, especially if you have a program that’s trying to get over the hump,” Dahm said. “It’s nice to have Tyson back.”


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