Miami leftfielder Blake Tekotte was demoted to ninth in the batting order in March because of his struggles at the plate. Tekotte helped remedy his offensive slump by hitting two solo homers in a 7-5 series-clinching win against rival Florida State April 16.
“The rivalry doesn’t get any bigger,” Tekotte said. “To go into an atmosphere like that; it was just awesome.”
On the season, Tekotte is batting .278 with four homers and 20 RBI. Tekotte is a threat to steal; he has been successful on 9 of 13 attempts.
Tekotte was overshadowed coming to Miami by fellow freshmen Jemile Weeks and Yonder Alonso. Weeks was an eighth-round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers and his brother, Rickie, is a current major leaguer.
Alonso was tabbed as a power hitter and came in as a 15th round selection by the Minnesota Twins. Tekotte was simply the small town kid from Missouri.
“I didn’t have all the pressure that Jemile or Yonder had,” Tekotte said. “Being from Missouri, not that many people knew that much about me.”
Tekotte is a big fish in a small pond back home. Not only did Tekotte play baseball, but he was also the star quarterback for his high school. In Tekotte’s senior year, he led both his baseball and football teams to state titles.
A trip to the Area Code Games in California brought Tekotte to Miami. In Tekotte’s first game, against Weeks’ team, he laced a single and stole second and third. Tekotte’s hustle caught the eye of Assistant Coach Gino DiMare.
“Gino likes to steal bases,” Tekotte said. “He likes the small fast guys.”
Baseball is in Tekotte’s blood. His grandfather tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals, but chose to come home and give up baseball for the birth of his son, Blake. Tekotte’s father played baseball and football at Illinois State University.
Tekotte also has a cousin that played for the Houston Astros in 2000.
The lefty came to Miami last fall and went through the grueling workouts that started at 5:30 a.m. and included a variety of drills to increase endurance.
“In the fall we ran our butts off,” Tekotte said. “I think our hard work will show now.”
Ultimately, Tekotte said he is unfazed by the big stage of Miami or the responsibilities of being a freshman starter.
“Different state, different field, different uniform, but it’s the same game,” Tekotte said.
Denis Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.