Henry Blanco wants to keep playing baseball
Henry Blanco wants to keep playing baseball
Before my interview with Henry Blanco, I had the chance to see him interacting with a bunch of fans that approached him with the desire to take photos or just shake his hand. And even when the scenario was not exactly a baseball field, but a public office, his warmth and humility, for hugs, greetings and pose for the cameras of dozens of smartphones, seemed to have no limits.
With that same kindness, the very dear Venezuelan catcher chatted with Panamerican World about his career and his future projects.
"I started playing baseball at the age of 5, wearing the uniform of Criollitos of Venezuela at the town of Guarenas – Guatire, where my parents would take me with constancy. There, I was able to develop my abilities and learn baseball techniques until I was 16, when I was signed by the Dodgers in the MLB (Major League Baseball) and the glorious Leones del Caracas in Venezuela,” said Henry Blanco.
Once achieved the hankered signing to become a professional player, Blanco traveled to Dominican Republic to work on the camp that the Californian team had installed there. "For three months I kept learning and improving the skills already acquired, before going to play in the Class A Short Season," he related.
He was signed to play professional in the position of catcher, although during the first 8 years Blanco defended third base in the field.
Proud recalls: "I was with the Dodgers from 1989 to 1998. I ascended to the majors on July 25, 1997." He was 25 years.
From Los Angeles, he was signed by the Colorado Rockies, and afterwards he played for Milwaukee, Atlanta, Minnesota and Chicago Cubs, among other teams in Major League Baseball. "Overall, my major league career has taken me to 12 different franchises."
Blanco’s path through the so-called world’s best baseball has allowed him to play along with Johan Santana –they where playing together in 2004, when Santana won the Cy Young-, Felix Hernandez and Greg Maddux, becoming the personal catcher of the last one.
This year, "The Captain" played his last season in the Venezuelan professional league. The catcher decided to hang his mask after 21 seasons in the LVBP, 15 of them with the Leones del Caracas. Blanco was champion twice with Leones and was part of the team that won the Caribbean Series for Venezuela in 2006. He earned two Gold Gloves (in the seasons 93-94 and 2012-2013) and represented the country at the World Classics 2006 and 2009.
With such experience in the Venezuelan League, we asked Blanco about the new generation of local players, to which he replied: "We count with group of young players that rank our country as a great power for baseball. It's amazing the great talent we have here right now."
Henry Blanco spent his last years as an active with Margarita Braves. "This season things went as expected. However, the board is working on players with potential to have a good performance in this league," he pointed.
At the end of the regular season, after the elimination of Braves, Blanco was called to strengthen his forever team, Leones del Caracas. "Being back with Caracas filled me with pride, having a chance to wear a shirt I thought I would not use again, it was very important to me. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to share with my teammates, especially with some with whom I played in the 90s, as Bob Abreu and Ugueth Urbina," expressed Blanco.
On his future, the catcher revealed that he has the opportunity to compete for a position as a substitute in the training camps for the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I hope to be in the team. Hereafter I would like to be a manager in Venezuela and gain experience as a technician in the United States."
And it appears that his dream could be true sooner than he thought, because, a few days before the start of spring games, Arizona offered him a position as instructor, in the case that the 42-year-old Venezuelan fails to stay for second catcher of the Diamondbacks, a place he will struggle with Tuffy Gosewisch to be the backup of other Venezuelan, Miguel Montero.
To date there is nothing concrete about it, but Arizona still does not cover the vacancy of assistant hitting coach after the offer to Blanco. Meanwhile, Henry focuses on training in an attempt to stay active, at least for another year.