Photo courtesy of Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports
Growing up in his home country of Venezuela, Diamondbacks outfielder Gregor Blanco always told himself to follow his dreams. As a teenage boy, he would take his position in the outfield before every game and gently close his eyes.
In those moments, he’d pray and envision himself in America fulfilling his lifelong dream.
“It’s funny because I still do the same thing before every game,” Blanco said with a smile. “It’s always been a part of me except now my dream is real.”
After beginning his major-league career with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals, Blanco signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants in 2011 and quickly made his way onto the starting roster.
His time in the bay area is best remembered by a fully extended diving catch to save Matt Cain’s perfect game in June of 2012. The Mercury News referred to the play as “The Catch”. He also caught the final out of Tim Lincecum’s first career no-hitter in 2013.
Along the way, Blanco also helped contribute to two world championships as a Giant.
Now heading towards the latter part of his career but still a versatile and valued asset for any organization, he’s forced with having to assimilate into a new clubhouse.
“So far, it’s been a new process for me,” Blanco said. “I always say that life puts you in tough situations so that you can become a better person and a better player.”
Blanco didn’t waste any time getting to know his teammates upon arriving at spring training. A certain openness to new experiences and a deep gratitude for the opportunities life has given him, has allowed him to realize the similarities between himself and the Diamondbacks organization.
“The Diamondbacks are an organization that have the same goals that I have in my life,” Blanco said. “To keep improving yourself everyday, both as an individual and as a team.”
The openness that he prides himself on also sent an early statement to his teammates.
“I didn’t shy away, I immediately wanted to get to know everyone,” Blanco said. “I wanted to let the guys know who I am and what I feel my purpose here is.”
“That’s just who I am as a person and as a player.”
Blanco is hopeful that the message to his teammates and coaches will be a lasting one and is optimistic about the upcoming season. He knows that team camaraderie is highly important to a team’s success and has already seen signs of it this spring.
“I haven’t been here that long, but I’ve already seen how much talent we have here,” Blanco said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is working hard and playing for the name on the front of the uniform… I can tell these guys work for that.”
Although he was a non-roster invitee to Diamondbacks spring training, Blanco looks to have earned an opening day roster spot, despite an up-and-down spring. Coming off a 2016 season in which he batted only .224, he will look to split time in the outfield with Yasmany Tomas and Daniel Descalso.
Now, just a few weeks away from opening day, Blanco is looking towards the remainder of his career, prepared for whatever may come his way. With a slight feeling of uncertainty, he’s more grateful than ever to be in the position he’s in.
“Even today, still, I wake up and come to the ballpark and know that I’m living out my dream.”