Nine-year-old Eli Blagg's parents will never forget the day they bought their son his first plastic ball and bat--a decision that turned a toddler into a baseball-crushing machine.
“I bought Eli his first bat and ball when he was two years old,” father Tyler Blagg said. “When I started throwing the ball overhand to him and he was hitting it, I realized pretty quick that we had something special on our hands. We kept at it every day and I think that’s what really caused him to grow and love the game.”
Eli’s talents quickly grew, landing the versatile youngster a spot with the talented NEA Arkansas Bulldogs 9U, who recently finished as runners-up in the USSSA 9U World Series Session 2 in Gulfport, MS.
“Eli’s a great kid with a great gift,” Tyler Blagg said. “When he gets up to the plate, he has baseball vision unlike anything I’ve ever seen for someone his age. This past season, he hit a .616 average. He plays shortstop and pitches, too. This past season, he had 80 strikeouts. No matter what his coaches ask him to do, he finds a way to excel.”
Eli’s hot hitting landed the young slugger with a prestigious award recently.
“In July, we went to Gulfport, Mississippi for USSSA 9U World Series Session 2 and Eli won the home run derby,” mother Nicole Blagg said. "When he gets out there on the field, his attitude and his focus give him the confidence to be successful."
Blagg’s parents aren’t the only ones noticing their son’s success, either.
“While playing in the Arkansas USSSA All-State Showcase recently, we were approached from a coach from a team in Northwest Arkansas to recruit Eli,” Nicole Blagg said. “He came to us and told us that he had been watching Eli’s progress all season and really needed his talents on his team.”
Though his young career has been fruitful, the Lepanto native's success comes from a combination of hard work and his never-back-down attitude.
“Eli works hard with everything that he does,” Tyler Blagg said. “He never gives up. He went through a stage where he was being bullied at school, but he refused to give in to them. He told me ‘They may pick on me at school, but I’m good at something. I’m going to go out there, play baseball and shine.’”
“We drive from Lepanto to Paragould twice a week for practice,” Nicole Blagg said. “It’s about an hour each way. On his days off, he plays league ball in Lepanto with the 9U Warriors baseball team. You can see it on his face every time he takes the field—he’s out there to win gold rings, and he’s willing to put in as much as work as it takes to get them.”
Off the field, Eli Blagg enjoys duck hunting and will soon add youth football to his resume with Lepanto Elementary School.
“He’s a kid of few words, because when he’s out there, he’s focused on the game and nothing else,” Tyler Blagg said. “Even though he doesn’t talk much, he’s so respectful and willing to do whatever his coaches ask of him. He’s a great kid who will be an even greater ball player one day.”
Future Stars of Tomorrow is a monthly feature which recognizes young athletes across Arkansas. To nominate your Future Star of Tomorrow, contact XZero Sports at (501)617-4106 or e-mail Mark Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.