Jack Blomgren: Playing baseball the right way
When asked what his favorite part about playing baseball is, Jack Blomgren doesn’t hesitate.
“Number One: Winning,” the former Michigan shortstop told The Daily. “For sure. Just going out there and competing.”
Competitive fire courses through Blomgren’s veins, and it has done so since he was very young.
“At a young age, that was developed with me with my brothers,” Blomgren said. “Even playing in the backyard, just always wanting to be better than each other and always win. Playing against my older brother’s friends and stuff like that kind of made me a tougher guy. I think I’ve always been a competitor since then. And since I started playing at a higher level and more competitively, that adds onto it for sure.”
When recounting stories of his and his brothers’ childhood competitions, Blomgren slips in a cliche that has become very telling of his mentality as a player since joining the Wolverines:
“We did whatever it took,” Blomgren said.
The moment which best encapsulates this mentality took place in game three of the 2019 Super Regional. In the ninth inning of that game, Blomgren scooped up a bouncing ground ball and fired a throw to first base in order to earn the final out of the series. The Wolverines entered a frenzy the second the ball nestled into the pocket of then-senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr’s glove. Kerr’s arms shot towards the sky and the whole team bounded towards the pitcher's mound to join the rapidly growing dogpile forming around then-redshirt junior Ben Keizer.
Blomgren’s play for the final out of the game was routine for a shortstop of his caliber, but the specific circumstances exemplify his toughness and tenacious playstyle. Blomgren had broken a finger on his glove hand earlier in the game as he dove headfirst into second base in the fifth inning to escape a pickoff-induced rundown. The injury was serious enough that the trainer suggested that Blomgren may have to leave the game, but he was having absolutely none of that.
“No, forget about that,” Blomgren said, according to second baseman Ako Thomas. “Just tape it up, I’m ready to go.”
That moment, which came just after the cameras had caught Blomgren cursing in pain, emblematizes the shortstop’s personality perfectly. The very frenzy that ensued had been the team’s goal ever since they had caught fire in the Big Ten Tournament, and Blomgren did whatever it took to make it happen.
“He’s one of... actually he is the toughest kid I’ve ever played with,” Thomas said. “Just a gritty, blue-collar, grinder kid from Wisconsin. ... Just that fire he has in him, that determination, that never-give-up type mentality made him a good defender, made him a good hitter, made him just a good guy.”
Thomas once shared the middle of the infield with Blomgren and now shares a close personal relationship with him as well, as an assistant coach for the Wolverines. According to both players, the pair’s friendship began with the upperclassman Thomas taking the team’s freshman shortstop under his wing in 2018, but Blomgren has clearly earned his mentor’s respect as more than just a promising new double-play partner.
Thomas makes it very clear that while the 2019 Super Regional rubber match exemplified Blomgren’s dedication, it certainly was not an isolated incident.
“He’s just a good dude, man,” Thomas said. “He’s a hard-nosed, blue-collar kid who wasn’t given anything in his life. He had to work for it. His work ethic is unreal. He’s a classy guy who would do anything for his teammates.”
In describing Blomgren’s work ethic, Thomas remembers the numerous times during the shortened 2020 season that Blomgren asked him to come to practice early or stay late to throw extra sessions of batting practice or hit him endless ground balls. Thomas remembers asking Blomgren if he was tired, to which the answer, much like Blomgren’s response to the trainer, always resembled “no, hit me more.”
While the fact that Blomgren started at shortstop from very early on in his freshman year would suggest that he had many Power Five suitors aside from Michigan, this was not the case.
“For me, I was kind of underrecruited, I would say,” Blomgren said. “I wasn’t the highest level of player coming out of high school, but (deciding on Michigan) was quick for me. Like I said, my freshman and sophomore and junior year I didn’t really get much attention like other guys, so it was a pretty easy decision for me for sure.”
Though he wasn’t sure of the program’s success when he received his offer, Blomgren is certain that he made the right decision in coming to Ann Arbor.
In Michigan, he found a program that appreciates his hard work and a coach whose mentality exactly mirrors his own.
“I think coach (Erik) Bakich might have seen that in me, and he was right,” Blomgren said. “He’s obviously a very good recruiter, and I think he chose the right mindset type of guy in me. A guy that fits the Wolverine type of reputation and the ‘Michigan Man.’”
Bakich often talks about playing “Michigan baseball,” and Thomas’s description of what that means illuminates the fact that Blomgren embodies the exact play styles that Bakich seeks for his teams.
“Just playing baseball the right way,” Thomas said. “No shortcuts. Doing things right, no matter who is looking. Play the game where you run out there with intent, no jogging. Play the game the right way. That’s what Michigan baseball is. It’s the old-school game of baseball, playing baseball the right way, and doing everything right when nobody's watching.”
Blomgren, with his work ethic noted earlier, is the epitome of Bakich’s desired culture of hard work, and his relentless desire to win and to improve made Blomgren the perfect fit for Bakich’s program. These desires led Blomgren to second team All-Big Ten honors his sophomore year and to realizing his dream of playing in Omaha at the conclusion of that season. They also led him to living his childhood dream of becoming a professional baseball player when the Colorado Rockies selected Blomgren in the fifth round with the 140th overall pick this June.
“Guys like that who have that drive and that hunger,” Thomas said. “That’s Jack Blomgren. You want to see those guys do good. I’m happy to see his career turn out as good as it was because he deserved it. You work that hard to get where you are, and it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s awesome to see that for him.”