Blair DeBord waited for the phone call, but it never came.
It was June 2009 — the same day of the MLB amateur draft — and DeBord was playing in a high school all-star game at Tointon Family Stadium, just weeks after graduating from Manhattan High.
DeBord’s plan was mapped out — get drafted and go pro, or go to a junior college and get drafted in the next two years.
But his plans swerved a little bit, and the catcher found himself staying home and choosing the longer path of Division-I baseball in his backyard — at Kansas State.
Four years later, the Wildcat junior is catching attention from around the country as one of 50 candidates for the Johnny Bench award, given to the best catcher in college baseball.
“It was just special,” DeBord said of being nominated. “It’s one of those unique position awards and to have your name listed is just one step closer to where I want to be. It was special, but I just know that that’s not it.”
DeBord burst on the scene as a freshman in 2010, starting in 47 games and hitting .340. But then he suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss all of 2011. And when he returned in 2012, he hit just .257 in 44 starts.
The junior said he has worked hard to get back to where he was before the injury. DeBord is currently hitting .358 this season and has made 25 starts for the Wildcats.
“Coming out of high school, it was one of those deals where I saw the ball well at the start of the season and got off to a good start, had the surgery, and then last year didn’t have that good of a year,” he said. “It’s basically my fourth time around, so I’ve been able to slow the game down as much as I can.
“I’ve gotten a lot of lessons, being able to sit out a year, watch the game and learn on that side. It’s just about every day, coming out here and grinding.”
He said he has focused on getting better every chance he gets.
“I just try to keep grinding every single day,” DeBord said. “My dad always says ‘There’s always somebody better,’ and that’s kind of driven me throughout my career. You don’t want to be the best in your area, best in your state, best in your region, best in the nation. You want to be the best in the world at what you do, and that applies to every aspect of life, and its really driven me in life.”
DeBord admits now his game has changed since he made the decision to attend K-State. As a high school catcher, he was more known for his ability to bash the ball over the fence than to control the game as the backstop. And he’s also learned how to call the game with the pitcher better than ever before.
DeBord said he knows the game and understands situations better now.
“My defense is a lot better,” he said. “In high school, I was more of a hitter, and I’m still a hitter now, but my defense has improved a lot.”
DeBord never got that call from an MLB team during that all-star game in 2009, but it’s something he still hopes to accomplish.
“I would love to play professional baseball — that’s a goal,” he said. “Right now, (I’d like to be) All-Big 12 and I got nominated for the Johnny Bench and that’s always been a dream.
“For me, I just want to help the team win. if I just help the team win, everything else will take care of itself.”