Of the eight freshmen that joined the Terps roster for 2017, one is a 2016 Major League draft pick, and one is a walk-on.
Freshmen LHP Tyler Blohm, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 MLB Draft, and infielder Barrett Smith, who earned a roster spot this fall, were vital members of an Archbishop Spalding team that won three consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference Championships.
Smith was second on the Cavaliers with a .444 batting average, and led the team with 14 doubles and 32 RBIs. But, the infielder wasn’t sure he’d play college baseball after missing a summer of baseball due to Tommy John surgery prior to his junior year—a crucial recruiting period.
Blohm, meanwhile, was named the 2016 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year after posting a 9-0 record with a 0.74 ERA, striking out 103 in 66 innings.
“You could tell [Blohm] was going to be a special player from a very young age and he fulfilled his potential for sure at the high school level,” Archbishop Spalding Head Coach Joe Palumbo said.
The two have been playing together since they were twelve-years-old, from Severna Park, Md., to Archbishop Spalding, and now, in College Park, Md.
“Coming onto a team where I really didn’t know a lot of people, it’s nice to always have Barrett [Smith] there to talk to,” Blohm said.
For Blohm, it was a forgone conclusion that he’d be playing baseball past high school, whether at Maryland or professionally. The left-hander signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Terps in November of 2015.
Joining the Terps, however, meant turning down an opportunity to begin his professional career. The southpaw was drafted by his hometown Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 Major League Draft. He was the first player drafted out of Archbishop Spalding under Palumbo.
“It’s absolutely pretty exciting,” Palumbo told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s the cherry on top to a very special season for Archbishop Spalding. Having one of our guys drafted by the hometown major league team is pretty cool.”
Blohm would have been slotted to be drafted much earlier than the 17th-round had he not had a strong commitment to Maryland. The Orioles called him in the fourth round, giving him an offer and fifteen minutes to make a decision. Blohm said the arrival of new pitching coach Ryan Fecteau was a big part of his decision to decline the offer and keep his commitment to the Terps. Still, the Orioles used their 17th-round pick on Blohm, in case he changed his mind.
A little more than a month later, and Blohm officially declared his intent on coming to Maryland.
Blohm earned a spot on the varsity team his freshman year, racking up 25 wins in his four-year high school career. His senior season, along with 9-0 record and 0.74 ERA, he held opposing batters to a .142 batting average.
“He was a very good left-handed pitcher, but I don’t think it was until his senior year that it exploded,” Maryland Associate Head Coach Rob Vaughn said.
Blohm—who was ranked Maryland’s fifth-best prospect by Prep Baseball Report—didn’t change much on the field during his four varsity seasons, but says his more dedicated preparation in the offseason between junior and senior seasons turned him into a dominant starter.
“Sophomore and junior year I did just enough, and I think senior year I had a thought process and just said ‘I’m going to go all out and see what happens,’” Blohm said.
Palumbo believes that Blohm’s success on the field is a direct result of the work he put in off of the field.
“His off-the-field work ethic is second to none in my opinion,” Palumbo said.
The Maryland coaching staff shut Blohm down this fall after he threw 66 innings his senior year and 26 more innings in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League this past summer. Blohm went 7-4 with a 2.04 ERA for the league runner-up Baltimore Redbirds, and was named a CRCBL All-Star along with Redbirds and now Terps teammates RHP Hunter Parsons, RHP Mike Rescigno and OF Marty Costes.
“I think that one thing that is pretty certain is that that guy is going to eat up quite a few innings for us this year whether that’s out of the bullpen or whether that’s in a starting role,” Vaughn said.
Smith wasn’t sure he would have the opportunity to play baseball after high school. He had Tommy John surgery prior to transferring to Archbishop Spalding his junior year and lost recruiting time, according to Palumbo. Palumbo believes that Smith’s surgery influenced the path that he took to Maryland because he missed a whole summer of baseball.
Although Smith wanted to play college baseball, he wanted to be happy where he was going to school. He liked Maryland enough to apply by the priority deadline, even though he had never spoken to the coaches.
But, in traveling to watch the Cavaliers and Blohm, Vaughn noticed another player on the field—Smith.
“You had this kid that was an unbelievably great student who really wanted to come to Maryland and every game that I went to, the kid played really, really well,” Vaughn said.
“My goal when I went out there was to have the best day I could, whether that was at the plate or on the field,” Smith said. “I guess I showed that I could put forth the effort to get somewhere.”
Smith was offered a spot this fall to practice and workout with the team, where he earned his spot on the roster.
“[Smith] said ‘I’m going to Maryland, I’m going to be awesome in the classroom and I’m gonna earn a spot,’ and that’s exactly what he did,” Vaughn said.
Palumbo believes that outside of Smith’s baseball skills, it was his willingness to compete and mental toughness that allowed him to adapt to the Archbishop Spalding baseball program and to earn a spot on the Maryland baseball team.
“I think that guys that are willing to work can far exceed expectations, ” said Vaughn.
Now, Blohm and Smith are teammates once again, trading in the white and red of the Cavaliers for the red, black, and gold of the Terps.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to come into the locker room and then two lockers down is Tyler [Blohm] again,” Smith said. “It’s cool to lace up with him right there next to me.”