Around 6:30 p.m., on Saturday night, Titusville native J.J. Bleday received a phone call, and heard words that every kid that’s played baseball wants to hear: “Congratulations, you’ve been drafted.”
Bleday, a son of Kathy and Ray Bleday, grew up in Titusville, and for two years — freshman and sophomore year — played baseball at Art Pearson Field as a Rocket.
In an effort to play more baseball, and enhance his skills, Bleday moved to Florida, where he attended A. Crawford Mosley High School, in Lynn Haven.
Bleday was a standout pitcher and outfielder for the Mosley Dolphins, and his talents did not go unnoticed.
“I knew I was going to get drafted,” Bleday said, recalling the phone call. “It was just a matter of time.”
For Bleday, the time came in the 39th round of the MLB Draft, when the San Diego Padres picked him up as an outfielder.
“My agent called me and told me I had been drafed,” Bleday said. Then, shortly after hanging up, a call from the Padres came through, and congratulated him.
It was a nice gesture, but Bleday, who is 18 and just graduated high school, isn’t ready to jump into the majors just yet.
While he was still attending THS, Bleday committed to Vanderbilt University, and he hasn’t gone back on his word.
Bleday’s plan at Vanderbilt is to “mature on and off the field,” he said.
The left-hander is a standout in the outfield, but he can also take control on the mound, although, that’s not his main priority moving forward.
He ended his senior season with the Dolphins with a batting average around .340, and athlough his arm can throw heat, Bleday thinks his big bat is a better asset.
“I think I can compete at a higher level with my hitting,” he said. “I’d say hitting is the biggest thing I have to offer.”
After a few years at Vanderbilt, Bleday thinks he will be ready for the draft, and hopefully his skills will advance him into a higher round.
The goal for Bleday, of course, is to be picked as the number one overall. But as far as teams go, it doesn’t really make a difference to him.
“I don’t think it really matters who drafts me,” Bleday said. “As long as they see my talent and what I can become, it doesn’t really matter about the teams.”
With a solid future ahead, Bleday doesn’t hesitate to look back to his roots.
“It all started in Titusville. Ever since I was little I was just playing as much as I could,” he said.
“I appreciate all the families, all the teachers, and everyone who’s helped me get to where I am today,” Bleday said.
The reasoning behind moving to Florida was to play even more, through all four seasons. Something impossible to do in northwestern Pennsylvania. The opportunity also got more looks from MLB teams.
For Little Leaguers looking to go in the same direction as Bleday, he offers some advice: “It doesn’t matter where you come from. All that matters is how hard you work and how much heart you’ve got.”