Sunday, May 30, 2010
#555) WILLIE BLAIR
Willie Blair was traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Jorge Fabregas to the New York Mets in exchange for Nelson Figueroa and Bernard Gilkey on July 31, 1998. A trading deadline deal that gave the Mets a total of 13 pitchers upon Blair's arrival. So with an abundance of starting pitchers it was determined that Willie would move to the bullpen. Which was an adjustment for him. "My arm's been fine, that's not the problem," Willie explained at the time. "I've always been able to recover quick. The thing is having the mentality to get ready quick, control your adrenalin and still keep the aggressiveness you need....Hopefully down the line, I'll be able to pitch in those (setup) situations."
An inconsistent Hideo Nomo created an opportunity for Blair to be granted a much more familiar starting assignment. He threw 7-1/3 scoreless innings against the Montreal Expos and earned the win on September 13th. It seemed that Willie was in the mix for a spot in the Mets rotation for the upcoming season. "To me, (Blair)'s a quality major-league pitcher, no question," said general manager, Steve Phillips. "I don't know about all his starts with Arizona, but he has proven that he could start and get major-league hitters out." Willie ended the season with a 1-1 record, and 3.14 ERA for the 11 games he appeared in for New York.
Willie Blair was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a cost cutting move to try and find resources to bring future Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson to the Mets. New York received Joe Randa in return for the right-hander on December 4, 1998. The veteran, Randa (and his salary) was immediately traded for a minor league player six days later.
Blair coached Cal Ripken League youth baseball teams after his playing career. Leading squads to the World Series in both 2005 and 2007. Willie became the head junior varsity baseball coach at Lexington Christian Academy with his son, Taylor Blair a member of the team. In 2010 he joined the Joliet Jackhammers as their pitching coach. "Even when I was playing," Blair said. "I knew I wanted to have a role in coaching."
Willie Blair signed his card in the set for me before the Lake County Fielders and Joliet Jackhammers game at Silver Cross Field on May 30, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois.