Jul. 4—HIGH POINT — Nate Blakeney harbors no illusions.
Blakeney, who lives in Archdale and is a former Wesleyan Christian standout, was added to the Rockers roster Thursday as insurance when shortstop Giovanny Alfonso was unable to play because of injury and knows his time will likely last at most a handful of days as Alfonso recovers.
Blakeney, who recently wrapped up his career at Longwood, still jumped at the opportunity to join a professional team.
“Yeah, I don’t know how long I’m going to be here,” Blakeney said Thursday after the Rockers defeated York, 9-8. “But you get a call from a place like this, able to play in the Atlantic League, playing with some great guys, playing in your hometown in front of your family and fans, you definitely have to take a chance.”
Alfonso’s unavailability left the Rockers with three regular infielders — J.R. DiSarcina, Jerry Downs and Michael Russell.
On Thursday night, Stephen Cardullo moved from the outfield to third base and with Russell going from third to shortstop. Downs is the regular first baseman and DiSarcina was at second.
Blakeney continued with the team when it went on the road Friday for a four-game July 4 weekend series at Gastonia.
“I picked Blakeney up because Gio is banged up and it’s just a safety net,” Rockers manager Jamie Keefe said. “He’s going to be with us for the next few days. It could be a couple of days. It could be a week. It could be awhile. We don’t know.
“We have to protect Gio right now. He could do something in an emergency, like put a bunt down. But it’s best that he stay off the infield right now and I need to do that.”
Keefe said he contacted Blakeney through his father, Wesleyan head baseball coach and former minor leaguer Mo Blakeney. Keefe said he played against Blakeney in independent ball.
“I know his dad really well,” Keefe said. “I made that phone call and it was well worth it and he’s got a smile on his face. Everything he does looks like his dad when his dad played.
“It’s nice to have him here. He’s got a smile on his face and it’s nice to keep him going.”
Blakeny said he had his parents, a niece, a nephew, his brother and his cousin in attendance on Thursday.
“I’m ready just for the experience, the fun and the memories,” Blakeney said.
If nothing else, the younger Blakeney signed his first professional autograph.
A little over 30 minutes before Thursday’s first pitch, an adult with a small boy and girl were standing at the base of the grandstand, at a point where fans stand behind a railing to get autographs near the dugout steps, when Blakeney was one of the first to walk near them on the way to the dugout.
Blakeney stopped and signed a ball they stuck through the railing.
“That was a dream, a dream,” Blakeney said. “Anybody who wants an autograph, I will sign it. You don’t know how many you are going to sign in your life, so I’m going to do every single one.”
The four-game series at Gastonia starts a 10-game road trip that is the longest of the season. The Rockers play three Tuesday-Thursday at Long Island and three Friday-Sunday at Lexington.
The road trip might not be a bad thing for High Point. It entered the Gastonia series with a 9-7 record away from home while just 5-9 at Truist Point.
“If we go 6-4 on this road trip you’ll see a big smile on my face,” Keefe said. “The goal right now is to win every series and if we do that we’ll be happy. We’ve been playing better on the road and I’ve got to figure out how to do that here.”
If none of the road games are postponed, the Rockers will play 13 days in a row. Their next off day is July 12, the day before they start a home stand with a July 13 doubleheader against Gastonia.
“We’ll find out who we are the next 10-12 days,” Keefe said. “This is going to be a real tough trip and we know it.”
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